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DWR Biologists Use Helicopter Rides, Ultrasound, To Check on Deer Pregnancies

CACHE COUNTY, Utah — Pregnancy checkups are part of the routine, even for some deer.

Several does were airlifted by helicopter Tuesday to a site at the Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area, where teams of biologists, and volunteers were waiting to check their vitals.

Among them, Brigham Young University Graduate Student, Sydney Lamb was heading up efforts to check on their fawn, waiting to be born.

“We’re looking at survival, as well as trying to understand some of the reasons why they may or may not be surviving,” Lamb said. “It’s important to fawn survival, how fit their mothers are, and what kind of like habitat conditions that their mothers can provide for them, and some of that’s compounded by weather.”

BYU Graduate Student Sydney Lamb

Pursuing a masters’ degree in wildlife and wildlife conservation, Lamb’s study is funded, in part, by Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the Mule Deer Foundation, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, or DWR.

Lamb says the study has given her a greater appreciation for the wild animals.

“These animals are tough,” Lamb said. “They survive a lot of pretty difficult situations especially as far as weather goes in terrain, in the fact that a lot of does give birth to twins. It’s pretty impressive to me.”

Biologists use a portable ultrasound to check on the fawns, as well as several other tools. Tracking devices, inserted into the soon-to-be mother deer, fall out when the new does are born, allowing the DWR to catch up with them soon after.

DWR Biologists use portable ultrasound devices to check on the pregnant does

“We’re able to go in and find the fawns within one to three days of birth,” Lamb said. “They just kind of hunker down there.”

The DWR started using the ultrasound machines several years ago to track the survival rates of the fawn which, Cache District Wildlife Biologist Jim Christensen, said usually sits at around 50 percent. Those numbers vary, depending on the weather and food available to them.

While the study helps the DWR figure out how many hunting licenses they can issue, Christensen says it benefits many other people too.

“People across Utah love deer. They love to see them. They love to watch them. They love to hunt them,” Christensen said. “And so they’re very interested in the survival and general well-being of the deer across the state.”

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