Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife biologists and game wardens recently completed 2020 pre-season pronghorn classification surveys in the Sheridan region.
Classification surveys take place annually to gather information on current pronghorn numbers.
Herd ratios are influenced by several factors including fawn production and recruitment, natural mortality and harvest and allow managers to monitor trends in the proportion of fawns and bucks in a herd from year-to-year. Classification surveys are not a total count of the entire herd, but rather a sample of the population. The information is used by managers to update herd population estimates and set hunting seasons.
During August, personnel observed and classified 11,193 individual animals in 18 hunt areas in northeast Wyoming.
Overall, the fawn ratio averaged 66 fawns per 100 does compared to 68 fawns per 100 does in 2019. The buck-to-doe ratio averaged 52 bucks per 100 does, up from 48 bucks per 100 does in 2019.
The yearling buck-to-doe ratio was 11 per 100 does. The yearling buck ratio is influenced by the previous year’s fawn production. It provides managers some insight into how well last year’s fawns survived their first winter.
“The cumulative fawn-to-doe and buck-to-doe ratios were similar to 2019, though a number of hunt areas had low buck ratios and the yearling buck ratio was down,” said Dan Thiele, Sheridan Region wildlife coordinator. “Whether this is due to lower numbers or changes in animal distribution, possibly related to this year’s drought conditions across much of northeast Wyoming, is unknown at this time. However, harvest data we will gather during the upcoming hunting season should provide additional insight into herd status.”
Wildlife managers also conducted a moose survey in Hunt Area 1 in the Bighorn Mountains on Aug. 27. The objective was to gather information on moose numbers in the area as well as herd composition.
Due to their solitary nature and preference for thick cover, surveys of moose are conducted via helicopter.
Seventy-six moose were counted and classified this year including nine adult bulls, three yearling bulls, 46 cows and 18 calves. The total count was down from 2019 but comparable to the five-year average of 77 moose.
A research study of seasonal moose movement and habitat selection is currently underway in this herd, which encompasses hunt areas 1, 34 and 42. GPS tracking collars were placed on 87 cow moose beginning in 2018. The collars are programmed to release from the animal after two years and managers will collect the collars and their associated data through 2021.