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The Mule Deer Project

A Cooperative Project Between the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Big Horn Foundation, West Valley School District, and The NatureMapping Program

The Project

This five year project was designed to learn more about the apparent declining mule deer populations of northeast and north-central Washington.

The project's goal was to connect on-the-ground habitat conditions with fawn production. Radio telemetry was used to monitor deer movements and locate preferred habitats.

Students sampled identified usage areas (1-5 square miles) and submitted vegetation and scat samples for analysis from plots within the sampling area. They also conducted NatureMapping inventories throughout the area to complement the plot data.

The Education Component

The larger question was the status of the mule deer population. Students contributed to the data collection process as well as the data analysis. In fact, they collected much more data than researchers expected.

    Students asked several questions throughout the process;
  • How does collecting scat and vegetation tell you about the health of the mule deer?
  • Why do scientists use the current capture and monitoring methods for the mule deer and the cougar?
  • How do radio collars and GIS help scientist learn about wildlife and plant communities?
  • What other wildlife occurred in the area where mule deer live?
  • How does the presence (or absence) of other wildlife affect the mule deer population and the biodiversity of the region?

    Becoming part of real life data collection provided a positive impact on the development of long-term stewardship of biodiversity for students.