Game and Fish Commission directs dollars toward mule deer

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 11:50 PM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met this week in Cheyenne for their January meeting. The Commission approved $452,400 for ten Mule Deer Initiative projects to enhance habitat for mule deer and support the ungulate’s migrations. Commission dollars will be matched $3 to $1 by other sources, amounting to a total of $1.79 million going to on-the-ground projects. The projects are anticipated to enhance three million acres and benefit seven herd units that make up 25% of the state’s mule deer population. 

Game and Fish is committed to managing and mitigating large carnivore conflicts and livestock depredation. To be the most vigilant in this work, the Commission was presented with new research on cattle depredation and associated damage compensation. The Commission directed the department to begin work to amend Chapter 28 — Big or Trophy Game Animal or Game Bird or Gray Wolf Damage Claims to include a damage compensation multiplier for yearling  cattle at a 1.25:1 ratio in certain circumstances. The department will also continue research on grizzly bear and gray wolf livestock damage to ensure the 1.25:1 is appropriate.

The Commission approved a land transfer of Bureau of Reclamation property near Glendo State Park. The property maintains public access opportunities for hunting and fishing as well as wildlife habitat. 

Game and Fish presented an update on the Commission’s request to evaluate the reintroduction of bighorn sheep in the Sweetwater Rocks. The department will continue to work through concerns identified during public outreach with particular consideration to landowners and  how the transplant may impact grazing allotments. 

“This is a worthy project for bighorn sheep,” said Brian Nesvik, director of Game and Fish. “We know there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, so we are slowing this work down to thoroughly provide assurances for producers and find solutions together to make this transplant possible.” 

Game and Fish’s next steps are to continue meeting with federal land management agencies, landowners, livestock producers and other partners.

Work is ongoing for two priority department construction projects. A test well is planned for the spring to ensure adequate water at the Commission’s South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area, the site of future employee housing in the Jackson Region. The new Cody Regional office is headed toward completion with construction slated to end in July.  

Commissioners heard an update about the elk feedgrounds public collaborative process. In Phase II, the stakeholder members participated in a shared learning series. Next, in small groups, the Game and Fish feedground steering committee will listen to stakeholder concerns, collect input and gain ideas to help form a long-term management plan for the department-operated elk feedgrounds. 

Game and Fish recognized several employees for their service to the state. Mark Smith, assistant fisheries management coordinator, received his 20-year service award. Jordan Kraft, south Pinedale game warden, was presented with the 2021 Shikar-Safari Club International Wildlife Officer of the Year Award for Wyoming. Scott Edberg, deputy chief of wildlife, and Jody Edwards, senior accountant, were thanked for their service to the department as they retire from the agency this week after 31 and 45 years, respectively. 

Commissioner Richard Ladwig and former Commissioner David Rael were recognized by the Wyoming Local Assistance State Team, a organization provides support to families after a line-of-duty death, for their work on behalf of the public safety network. 

The meeting recording will be available in the coming days online. The next Commission meeting is planned for March 24-25 in Cody.

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