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Mule Deer Research
Mule Deer Research
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​Mitigating Impacts of Energy Development on Piceance Basin Mule Deer Populations

Lead Researcher

Chuck Anderson

Study Area

Piceance Basin — located between the cities of Rangely, Meeker and Rifle in northwest Colorado.

Project Status

Ongoing

Research Objectives

  • To determine the effects of energy development on mule deer behavior and population trends.
  • To determine if habitat improvements benefit mule deer populations exposed to energy development activities.
  • To identify energy development practices that will minimize impacts to mule deer populations. ​​

Project Description

Energy development in western Colorado has the potential to negatively impact mule deer populations. These impacts include habitat fragmentation and destruction, increased deer-vehicle collisions, increased noise levels, and more. Thus, this project aims to identify habitat improvements and energy development practices that will sustain mule deer populations for future recreational and ecological values.

Researchers selected the Piceance Basin as the project's study area because the basin contains some of the largest natural gas reserves in North America. Piceance is also home to one of Colorado's most important mule deer populations.

During this long-term project, researchers will track mule deer habitat use and behavior, observe animal health throughout the winter season, monitor fawn survival and estimate mule deer populations in the study area. Finally, researchers will determine the success of different habitat improvements in reducing disturbances caused by energy development and in improving winter condition of mule deer.

The results of this project will show wildlife managers and energy developers if it is ecologically and financially valuable to mitigate disturbances in highly developed areas versus focusing efforts in nearby less or non-impacted areas.

Collaborators for this multi-million dollar project include BLM, Colorado State University, Idaho State University, and multiple energy corporations and sportsmen's organizations.