Wyo Game and Fish sees healthy wildlife populations
Casper – Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Director Scott Talbott noted that wildlife populations are thriving in Wyoming right now, and the response from hunters and anglers has been positive in the last year.
Increases have been seen in mule deer and antelope populations and elk herds are doing well, he added during the Wyoming Water Association’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Education seminar at the end of October.
“We have seen a stark increase in interest from resident and non-resident hunters and anglers partaking in the opportunities that we have,” Talbott said.
“Last year, we saw a nearly 6,000-application increase for deer and antelope over what we have seen historically,” he added. “This year, we had just over 8,000 people apply for licenses than the year before. We’ve seen almost 15,000 more applicants for licenses overall.”
Deer and antelope
Deer and antelope populations thrived over the summer of 2016 with the increase in moisture.
“In 2012, we had six fawns per 100 does,” Talbott said. “Normally antelope and mule deer production is somewhere from 70 to 95 fawns. As a result of 2012, we have a whole age class of deer and antelope missing.”
Populations recovered to near-normal levels in 2016.
Talbott noted, “These are the good, old days of elk hunting in Wyoming.”
Record harvests and record numbers of elk have been seen around the state recently.
“Elk hunter success is still between 40 and 45 percent,” he said. “Putting that in perspective, when I went to work for WGFD just over 30 years ago, elk hunter success statewide was 12 percent.”
The increases in populations have facilitated an increase in hunter harvest success.
Talbott also noted that a steady growth has been seen in fishermen.
“Licenses have grown from 1 million to 1.5 million in the last several years,” he explained. “Our resources are doing very, very well.”
He further added that WGFD is working to enhance fish populations.
“In Glendo, we planted about 10 million walleye fry,” Talbott said. “Hopefully in the next year or two, fisheries will pick up there.”
They have also continued to work on improving fisheries through improved flows.
“We’ve been working with our partners to accomplish our goals,” he said.
While some species have thrived, Talbott also noted that others, like moose, are still struggling.
“Moose is one of those species that we have invested a significant amount of time and dollars in research, both from a biological and habitat perspective,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are stacking the deck against moose.”
While Talbott said, “It’s not a good time to be a moose,” he also noted that WGFD is still making investments to improve populations.
Talbott also mentioned that sage grouse continue to make a recovery, aided by mild winters and increase moisture.
“I anticipate that sage grouse numbers will continue to climb fairly significantly,” he said. “All in all, the moisture that we’ve had the last several years has been very, very good for wildlife.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.