Although there is considerable interest in conserving ungulate migration routes in Wyoming, the full story of these journeys has never been told. The Atlas of Wildlife Migration celebrates Wyoming’s ungulate migrations by combining wildlife science and cartography. It seeks to bring attention to these migrations and catalyze their conservation through education and synthesis.
This project gives agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the public the ability to explore movement data behind Wyoming's diverse ungulate migrations and, where appropriate, incorporate this information into their work. This is the first time that GPS collar studies conducted in Wyoming have been centralized in a consistent, readily accessible, database and online viewer.
We recently discovered the longest mule deer migration ever recorded, where animals migrate 150 miles through western Wyoming from low-elevation winter ranges in the Red Desert to the high mountain slopes surrounding the Hoback Basin. Our assessment provides a detailed account of this unique migration and relevant information to focus management and conservation efforts.
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.
Wyoming Migration Initiative Photography Fellow Joe Riis and WMI Research Associate Arthur Middleton launched their exhibit: INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES: EXPLORING YELLOWSTONE'S GREAT ANIMAL MIGRATIONS with a talk at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington D.C. View more >
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!
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."
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.
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.
Recently, the longest mule deer migration ever recorded was discovered where thousands of deer migrate 150 miles from winter ranges in the Red Desert to summer ranges in the mountains of northwest Wyoming.