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Mule Deer Foundation explores starting chapter in Bitterroot

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Jan 29 2013 06:42:59 PM MST
STEVENSVILLE, Mont. -

Hunters and other wildlife proponents are working to improve mule deer numbers and habitat, especially in the Bitterroot.

The Mule Deer Foundation is exploring whether to establish a chapter in Hamilton.

The Foundation promotes the conservation of mule deer and black tail deer.

The effort is spurred by visibly declining numbers of mule deer in western Montana.

Stevensville's Gene Foster is the new state co-chair of the Mule Deer Foundation.

The life long Montana hunter watches video of a helicopter trip he took with Fish Wildlife and Parks scientists.

They counted adult mule deer and fawns in timbered areas near Superior.

"They're an animal I'm just fascinated with," said Foster.

Foster is concerned about declining mule deer numbers.

Fish Wildlife and Parks reports for the past five years, mule deer buck harvests are down by half in Montana.

"As mule deer populations fluxuate  we're in the bottom of the trough," said Fish Wildlife and Park scientist Mike Thompson.

Thompson said scientists don't know exactly why.

Mule Deer numbers were drastically low in the 1990's too.

Foster said mule deer are losing habitat in Ravalli County.

He blames urban development, predators and poaching.

The mule deer's white tail cousin is flourishing in a more crowded setting.

But Foster said mule deer don't adapt as well as white tail deer.

The Bitterroot is mule deer country.

"Buck harvesting has very little effect on mule deer populations," said Thompson," It's the harvested does that moves populations and we're just not harvesting does these days."

Foster wants to work for easements to protect and enhance habitat.

"We want to keep this species around for them to enjoy," said Foster.

The Foundation is reaching out to sportsmen and women in the Bitterroot.

The mule deer meeting will be held at Bitterroot Brewing in Hamilton.

That's east of the railroad tracks on Marcus Street behind Safeway.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.