Wyoming's Pinedale Anticline and the surrounding Green River Basin have been described by some as the American Serengeti because of the tens of thousands of big-game animals that migrate through the region every year. Photo courtesy of Mark Gocke/Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Mule deer populations on Wyoming's Pinedale Anticline have dropped to their lowest levels in nearly a decade, fueling concerns that intensified energy development in the natural-gas rich region has reduced the herd's crucial winter habitat.
The most recent estimates -- to be presented at a Bureau of Land Management meeting next week in Pinedale -- suggest the deer herd on the nearly 200,000-acre mesa has declined to less than half its 2001 size, dipping below agency-established thresholds that warrant "serious mitigation efforts."
"This report indicates there's a problem that hasn't been fixed," said Rollin Sparrowe, a retired biologist who worked for 22 years at the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Everybody has been told the deer situation ... is going to be bad and is getting worse."
The 19-page report, co-authored by Hall Sawyer and Ryan Nielson of Western Ecosystems Technology Inc., is the first of a handful of annual wildlife reports on the Pinedale Anticline, a windy, high-desert plain that provides vital winter forage for mule deer and pronghorn antelope.
Reports are also forthcoming on the status of other wildlife that roam the anticline, which overlies what is believed to be the nation's third-largest natural gas field.