The first-ever atlas of ungulate migration was released in October 2018, detailing the ecology and conservation of migratory big-game species including mule deer, elk and pronghorn in Wyoming, the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and adjacent Western states. Read more >
“Wild Migrations, Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates,” published last month, presents 70 compelling migration stories from one of the most studied ecosystems on earth and offers a first-of-its-kind resource for wildlife advocates and managers. Read more >
A team of scientists at the University of Wyoming has provided the first empirical evidence that ungulates (hooved mammals) must learn where and when to migrate, and that they maintain their seasonal migrations by passing cultural knowledge across generations.
The results were reported today in Science, one of the world’s top journals. Read more >
We are excited to share that the faculty of UW’s Department of Zoology and Physiology has chosen Dr. Jerod A. Merkle as the new Knobloch Professor in Migration Ecology and Conservation.
With Dr. Merkle starting the new position this summer, WMI is poised to strengthen our research on Wyoming's big game migrations. His skills provide the research toolkit to determine how animals make their migrations and navigate impediments along the way.
Dr. Merkle is establishing a new lab and research program, and we look forward to his continuing leadership in the field of ungulate migration.
This new professorship was created through a partnership between the University of Wyoming and the Knobloch Family Foundation.
For complete details about this new professorship, see the university's press release.
HCN writes: “PhD student Anna Ortega studies the famous Red Desert mule deer herd to understand the benefits of short, medium, and long-distance migration strategies. This work recently took her to the Island Park, Idaho summer range of Deer 255, the deer that makes a 242-mile migration north from the Red Desert, the longest ever recorded in a mule deer.” Read the rest of the article here.
University of Wyoming wildlife biologists recently tracked down a lost mule deer doe that made a world-record migration from the Red Desert over the Teton Range in 2016, only to abruptly disappear.
The doe’s reappearance marks a stunning turn in an already astounding journey that began in 2016.
Read the full story in this University of Wyoming press release.
The longest recorded migratory mule deer herd in the world travels about a 150 miles from the Red Desert in southwest Wyoming to a place called the Hoback.
Discovered in 2012, the route garnered national attention and inspired countless discussions about its protection. It was an example of something infinitely impressive: the longest mule deer migration trekking unnoticed in Wyoming’s backyard.
Longest until now, anyway. Read the rest of the story in the Casper Star-Tribune.
WMI contributed data to an international study that found animals move and migrate less in areas with more human disturbance, a finding that applies across 57 species. WMI director Matthew Kauffman was one of 114 co-authors involved in contributing animal movement data to the effort, which was led by Marlee Tucker and Thomas Mueller from from Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center and Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed a Secretarial Order February 9, 2018 in Salt Lake City calling on agencies within Interior to coordinate to map, manage, and conserve big game migration corridors.
Mo the mule deer doe has wrapped up her fall migration. She settled into her winter range in the Leucite Hills in December, and hasn’t migrated for weeks. She’s in good shape, sitting at 140+ pounds and 13.78% body fat. Mo and her herd will spend the next three or four months burning through their fat reserves and subsisting on sagebrush and other browse in the hills outside of Superior, Wyoming.
The Wyoming Migration Initiative is excited to release Migration Mapper™, our new, free app that enables wildlife managers, biologists, and researchers to analyze GPS collar data and delineate migration corridors and winter ranges. Migration Mapper is designed so that you can use it without extensive knowledge of computer coding languages or statistics.
About 500 people packed the The Gryphon Theatre November 30th to see Wyoming Migration Initiative photography fellow Joe Riis present highlights from the last ten years of his work photographing elk, mule deer, and pronghorn migrations of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. WMI research associate Hall Sawyer introduced the talk, while Wild Migrations atlas text editor Emilene Ostlind read an essay about how she and Joe documented the Path of the Pronghorn starting in 2008. Ostlind's essay appears in Riis' new YELLOWSTONE MIGRATIONS book from publisher Braided River. You can order the book directly here.
We captured Mo on her winter range in March 2017. Until just a few weeks ago she was on her summer range, which is in the Gros Ventre Mountains near the Snake River/Green River divide. Then she started migrating. Her winter range is far away, but we aren’t saying where just yet! We will be following Mo’s migration this fall and into the future. You’ll be able to follow Mo on her fall migration journey with weekly Facebook updates.
Wyoming Migration Initiative director Matthew Kauffman spoke with a reporter from The Gaurdian about our growing awareness of the importance of migratory habitat, and emerging risks to ungulate corridors.
A team led by WMI postdoctoral fellow Jerod Merkle has created a new mapping tool that uses snow depth to predict when and where elk will migrate in springtime. That's when brucellosis is most likely to spill over from elk to cattle. Such forecasting will help managers keep elk and cattle from commingling during calving season.
The exhibit shows how the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a landscape of "Invisible Boundaries" that is permeable to wildlife. In fact, animals rely on being able to migrate freely across state, Yellowstone National Park, National Forest, and private property boundaries to survive and keep this ecosystem intact. WMI research associate Dr. Arthur Middleton and WMI Photography Fellow Joe Riis independently produced this exhibit with artist James Prosek and filmmaker Jenny Nichols. WMI co-sponsored the exhibit and contributed to the maps.
The Teton bighorn sheep herd has persisted for 70 years after losing its migration. A recent study found that this herd of 80-100 animals has a unique movement strategy to make the best out of their limited, high-elevation range. This study was led by Alyson Courtemanch, the Jackson wildlife biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, who was a graduate student at the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming while doing this work.
Bethann Garramon Merkle has joined the Wyoming Migration Initiative as an illustrator and writer.
WMI graduate research fellow Ellen Aikens found strong evidence of “green wave surfing” in mule deer, in which deer timed their movements very closely to the greenup of spring vegetation as it moved up the mountains. Previous tests of this hypothesis found that Norwegian red deer jumped the green wave. The study, published in Ecology Letters, offers some of the best evidence of surfing in a migratory ungulate to date.
The South Fork of the Shoshone River is the edge of one of the best migratory lanscapes left in America. See what the valley looks like when its full of mule deer and pronghorn after a November snowstorm.
Ever wonder why the mule deer winter range near Dubois has a "warm" reputation compared to the rest of eastern Greater Yellowstone? Wyoming Migration Initiative writer Gregory Nickerson investigates, finding deer in unexpected places and snow vaporizing into thin air. Read more >
When and where did you see the first snow of the season? In this Migration Field Note Gregory Nickerson checks in with friends across Wyoming to track the changing of seasons and the beginning of big game migrations.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Fundation recently profiled the Cody elk herd migration in an article in Bugle, the organization's member magazine. Photos by Wyoming Migration Initiative Photography Fellow Joe Riis richly illustrated the article. Read more >
Natural resources reporter Angus Thuermer profiled the many mule deer studies conducted by the Wyoming Migration Initiative and the Wyoming Cooperative Game and Fish Research Unit, with an emphasis on the outreach and private-public partnerships that fund our research. The article was originally published at the public policy news site WyoFile.com.
Wildlife researchers have launched a landmark study to map mule deer migration corridors over the entire eastern portion of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It is one of the largest collaring efforts ever conducted in Wyoming, focused on multiple herds and spanning an area from the Wind River valley to the Bighorn Basin. Read more >
Wildlife photojournalist Joe Riis has joined the Wyoming Migration Initiative as a photography fellow. The grant-funded position will advance WMI’s outreach efforts using Riis’ captivating images and film. For Riis, the arrangement will help keep his focus on documenting and promoting Wyoming’s migrations, which he says are some of the biggest and best in the nation. Read more >
Sustaining Big Game Migrations in the West: Science, Policy, and People | Emerging Issues Forum
Nov 9 & 10, 2015: The science of big game migration is developing quickly and we are now gaining a better understanding of corridor habitats, animal behavior, and herd-level benefits associated with mule deer, pronghorn, elk, and other migrations in Wyoming and the West. As animals migrate between distant seasonal ranges, they traverse myriad jurisdictions and land ownership types, requiring managers to coordinate their efforts amid a diverse regulatory and policy landscape. The result is tremendous complexity, but also an opportunity to learn and collaborate. Learn more >
The Wyoming Migration Initiative recently live-tweeted while on mule deer captures in December 2014. The response from the public was overwhelmingly positive. Given the feedback we received, we are going to live-tweet our upcoming captures in March. If you missed the live-tweet event, you can still see all the tweets, maps, content and discussion. Click here!
WMI Director Matthew Kauffman receives the TNC Deborah MacKenzie Award for Innovation
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recently awarded WMI Founder and Director Matthew Kauffman the Deborah MacKenzie Award for Innovation. This award is given to a TNC partner who "...has exemplified a “big picture,” innovative idea with practical follow-through that advances the chapter’s conservation efforts."
Brett French at the Billings Gazette recently wrote an article on The Greater Yellowstone Elk Migration Project. This project is headed by WMI Research Associate Arthur Middleton and photographer Joe Riis. Already, Middleton has collected over 2.5 million GPS locations from 271 individuals throughout 8 herds around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The Wyoming Migration Initiative live-tweeted our recent mule deer capture work. Our hope is to engage a broader audience and make the science and work that we do more accessible. Christine Peterson at the Casper Star Tribune recently wrote an article on this effort titled: Researchers live-tweet southwest Wyoming mule deer captures.
To assist in the Wyoming Migration Initiative’s mission to share our research with a broader audience, we now have a presence on both Twitter and Facebook! You can follow WMI Director Matthew Kauffman on Twitter @wyokauffman. Please like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on all of our current work. We plan to keep these pages up-to-date with upcoming articles and current work being done around the state by WMI researchers and partners.
Staff writer for the Casper Star Tribune Christine Peterson recently highlighted new research conducted by researchers at the University of Wyoming, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and U.S. Geological Survey. Feedgrounds are used in western Wyoming as a means to limit the interaction between cattle and elk on winter range. Feedgrounds are areas where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department provide feed to elk which essentially shortens elk migrations. By shortening their migrations, elk are kept closer to their summer ranges and off their historic winter ranges; the historic winter ranges of elk are now mainly private land with many livestock operations. The scientific article can be found at: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/13-2092.1
The University of Wyoming recently highlighted research examining how Sage Grouse Core Areas may also benefit mule deer. This research was conducted by scientists at The Nature Conservancy, the University of Wyoming, Western Ecosystems Technology Inc., the University of Montana and the U.S. Geological survey. Hall Sawyer, Kevin Monteith and Matthew Kauffman of the Wyoming Migration Initiative also participated in the study.
The press release from the University of Wyoming notes that over $100 million has been spent between 2008 and 2012 for conservation easements with an eye towards sage grouse conservation. Given the high amount of overlap between sage grouse and mule deer, there is potential for conserving mule deer populations at the same time. The entire press release can be seen at the link below.
Greg Nickerson of WyoFile recently reported on a study investigating Bighorn Sheep in the Jackson region.
"A recent study of an isolated bighorn sheep herd in Wyoming's Teton Range has revealed new insights on how ungulates cope with the loss of migration routes, and how backcountry recreation encroaches on their remaining habitat."
A recent editorial piece from the Casper Star-Tribune highlights ongoing efforts to conserve migration routes in Wyoming, specifically the Red Desert to Hoback Basin mule deer migration route.
Following a recent presentation by Wyoming Migration Initiative scientists Matthew Kauffman and Hall Sawyer, the Jackson Hole News & Guide wrote a story on the recently published Red Desert to Hoback Migration Assessment.
April 18, 2014 — A team of researchers including University of Wyoming scientists has documented the longest migration of mule deer ever recorded, the latest development in an initiative to understand and conserve ungulate migration in Wyoming.
The researchers will explain the Wyoming Migration Initiative and describe the newly discovered Red Desert-to-Hoback deer migration during a public program Tuesday, April 22, starting at 5 p.m. in the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center at UW. In addition to presentations by the scientists, the event will feature photographs of the migration by National Geographic photographer Joe Riis, which are on exhibit in the Berry Center atrium through April 25.
Each spring, a herd of mule deer leaves the Red Desert and follows a trail of greening grass and retreating snow along the western slope of the Wind River Range. Months later, the animals arrive in the Hoback Basin south of Jackson, more than 150 miles away.
It is the farthest recorded mule deer migration in the world, and an ancient rite vital to the long-term survival of Wyoming’s iconic mule deer populations. And its future is uncertain.
Al Jazeera America's Nate Schweber recently reported on the Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration.
When wildlife biologist Hall Sawyer strapped radio collars to dozens of mule deer wandering southwestern Wyoming’s Red Desert in January 2011, he thought the humble animals were as rooted as the landscape’s windblown sage, low hills and staked fence posts.
Then the deer vanished out of radio range.
From WyoFile's Gregory Nickerson:
In the winter of 2011, a team led by biologist Hall Sawyer put tracking collars on 40 mule deer near the Leucite Hills in Wyoming’s Red Desert. Given Sawyer’s previous knowledge, he didn’t expect these deer to migrate far from the Red Desert in the course of the year. But instead of tracking a sedentary herd, Sawyer uncovered an extraordinary animal journey that has ranged across wide open spaces of Wyoming since time immemorial.
"Deer are among the most ubiquitous animals in North America, giving humans ample chances to observe their habits. But until recently, scientists had missed one remarkable behavior of a hardy group of mule deer: a twice-yearly migration of 150 miles (240 kilometers), longer than any other land animal in the lower 48 states."
"In this great migration, several hundred deer travel across Wyoming, from a low desert to high mountains and back again. Their trek takes place outside the protection of any parks or preserves, and until now was done under the noses of the public. However, scientists warn that development and human intervention could threaten this ancient journey."
The Wyoming Migration Initiative, working with the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center, has launched an early beta version of the Migration Viewer. The Migration Viewer is an online interface designed to allow users from a variety of backgrounds access to explore ungulate GPS data collected throughout Wyoming. The database currently houses more than 5 million GPS locations from over 1200 collared individuals, data that has been collected from a wide variety of researchers across Wyoming. The database is housed on WyGISC's servers in a standardized, durable, format. The goal of this effort is to allow better access to this data for the public and natural resource managers, to facilitate the use of this knowledge in wildlife management and on-the-ground conservation. This project is primarily funded by the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
Wyoming has some of the longest wildlife migration routes in the U.S. Animals travel in some cases over 100 miles from summer ranges to winter habitats. Protecting the migration routes is important for maintaining healthy populations. But land managers and other decision makers often don’t actually know where the animals travel. Now, scientists are tracking their routes. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.
Migratory elk are coming back from Yellowstone National Park with fewer calves due to drought and increased numbers of big predators -- two landscape-level changes that are reducing the benefits of migration with broader implications for conservation of migratory animals, according to a new study published in the journal Ecology.
Mule deer in western Wyoming migrate long distances and indulge in lengthy foraging “stopovers” between their winter and summer ranges. That may not sound like earth-shaking news, but if you want to make a western wildlife biologist’s heart race, mention this finding from Hall Sawyer’s mule deer migration studies, and the frisson of a hot breaking story – scientifically speaking – is in the air.
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