Ninety-eight mule deer does caught helicopter rides

Lone Star Outdoor News

Ninety-eight mule deer does caught helicopter rides, then trailer rides and found themselves in new homes as part of a joint restoration and research project through Sul Ross State University’s Borderlands Research Institute.

This marks the third year of a collaborative effort by the BRI, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, El Carmen Land & Conservation Co. and several other sponsoring organizations. The program seeks to invigorate mule deer populations at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area and adjacent ECLCC-CEMEX property in southeastern Brewster County. The mule deer does were net-gunned by helicopter from a private ranch near Fort Stockton and from Elephant Mountain WMA at the end of February. Following capture, the deer were hobbled, blindfolded and then transported by slinging via animal bags and cable to the staging areas.

After veterinarians and biologists took blood and fecal samples, administered inoculations, and recorded ages, the deer were fitted with VHF (Very High Frequency) collars, transported and released. Sul Ross graduate student John Clayton “Kiddo” Campbell, Castroville, has monitored deer released in 2015 and 2016 as well as this year’s relocated animals. He records the deer’s movements, habitat selection, survival rates, and other relevant data. Comparisons will be made between deer released into the enclosure (soft-release) and those liberated without the use of an enclosure (hard-release).

So far, there has been a pretty high survival rate, Campbell said. Both he and Shawn Gray, TPWD mule deer and pronghorn program leader, noted a difference in movements between animals “soft-released” for a two-week period in a 500-acre enclosure, and those “hard-released” directly into the wild. Some of the hard-released deer (from 2016) covered over a 40-mile circuit. The majority of the does soft-released stayed in Black Gap, but those who travel farther also help restoration efforts for the entire area.