Mule deer researchers plan to use Twitter and Facebook to reach a larger and more diversified audience when they begin capturing deer Thursday in southwest Wyoming.
Scientists from the University of Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit will broadcast their progress in hopes of creating a conversation about the struggles of mule deer in the West.
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will help in the conversation.
“There has always been interest in the capture operation,” said Matt Kauffman, leader of the USGS-Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming. “It’s one of the few times in the research process we have the animals on hand.”
Researchers are working on five projects in the area, including one on the effects of drought on migration and another focused on deer nutrition.
All the studies are meant to help scientists understand why mule deer numbers are declining in most of the West.
A contracted crew will capture deer using a helicopter. The crew will bring the animals back to a station, where the researchers will use an ultrasound to estimate body fat, draw blood to test for pregnancy and place collars on new animals.
A mule deer capture requires weeks of logistical planning and work to put together, said Kauffman, who is also director of the Wyoming Migration Initiative. This particular operation will last about seven days, depending on the weather.
“At minimum, we figure we would live-tweet and send pictures and information about the captures and studies, and by giving it the ‘wyodeer’ hashtag, it gives opportunities for other groups who are actively working with mule deer to join the conversation,” Kauffman said. “There’s also the opportunity for the public to listen to the conversation and join in.”
Expect a handful of updates each day on the capture process. The frequency of tweets and Facebook posts may depend on cell reception, Kauffman said.
Follow the group’s progress on Twitter at @wyokauffman and #wyodeer and on Facebook at facebook.com/migrationinitiative.