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Mule Deer Research
Mule Deer Research

​​​​​​​​​​​​Effects of Habitat Treatments on Mule Deer Survival and Health During the Winter 

Led By

Eric Bergman

Study Area

Uncompahgre Plateau and adjacent valleys in southwest Colorado

Project Status


Research Objectives

  • To evaluate the impacts of large-scale vegetation habitat treatment on mule deer survival and health during the winter.

  • To develop habitat management strategies for the benefit of deer

  • To put research results into context with historical records and recent declines in mule deer herd populations.

Project Description

Mule deer populations in Colorado have shown dramatic fluctuations since the 1960s.  Beginning in the 1990s, some western Colorado mule deer herds demonstrated the most recent decline. For many decades, wildlife managers have used habitat management as a way to increase the health and survival of mule deer, but the effect of these efforts had not yet been evaluated. Evaluating these efforts was the focus of this 4-year study to measure the health and survival of mule deer herds during the winter months in areas treated with different levels of habitat management.

In the course of this study, researchers monitored fawn survival, mule deer body conditions, and population densities in areas with different levels of habitat management. Habitat treatment varied from mechanical disturbance in the form of hydro-axe clearing and roller-chopping of late seral stage pinyon-juniper forests, chemical control of weeds, and reseeding with desirable mule deer browse species.

The results of this study will help managers select the most effective habitat treatments to apply to mule deer winter ranges.

Associated Publications

Bergman, E.J., C.J. Bishop, D.J. Freddy, G.C. White and P.F. Doherty. 2014. Habitat management influence overwinter survival of mule deer fawns in Colorado. Journal of Wildlife Management 78(3):448–455.

Bergman, E.J. 2013. Evaluation of winter range habitat treatments on overwinter survival, density, and body condition of mule deer. Dissertation, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, 137pp.

Watkins, B.E., C.J. Bishop, E.J. Bergman, B. Hale, B.F. Wakeling, A. Bronson, L.H. Carpenter, and D.W. Lutz.  2007. Habitat guidelines for mule deer: Colorado Plateau shrubland and forest ecoregion. Mule Deer Working Group, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA. 72pp.

Bergman, E.J., P.F. Doherty, G.C. White, and D.J. Freddy. 2014. Habitat and herbivore density: response of mule deer to habitat management. The Journal of Wildlife Management 79:60–68.

Bergman, E.J., P.F. Doherty, G.C. White, and A.A. Holland. 2015. Density dependence in mule deer: a review of evidence. Wildlife Biology 21:18–29.

Bergman, E.J., P.F. Doherty,  C.J. Bishop, L.L. Wolfe, and B. Banulis. 2014. Herbivore body condition response in altered environments: mule deer and habitat management. PloS one 9: e106374.