By David Martin
Editor 

Concerns grow for Greater Little Mountain area

 


Concerns continue to grow regarding proposed oil and gas leases the Bureau of Land Management intends to sell in the Greater Little Mountain area.

Large portions of the area were listed in a fourth quarter lease proposal released by the BLM earlier this year.

For Joshua Coursey, Muley Fanatics Foundation CEO in Green River, protecting the Greater Little Mountain Area comes down to wanting to promote a healthy game population in the area, as well as preserving some of the few places in Sweetwater County that have been untouched by human development. Coursey said the area has winter ranges used by deer, elk and moose that could be threatened if development is permitted.

The foundation is part of the Greater Little Mountain Coalition, which includes Trout Unlimited, the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and Bowhunters of Wyoming.

According to Matt Hayes, a University of Wyoming PhD student involved with the Muley Fanatic Foundation-funded Deer-Elk Ecology Research project, the area is very unique in both the landscape and the game animals seen in the area.

“There’s a lot of game in that country you just don’t see,” he said.

While the area does have some capped wells, Hayes said it has largely been undeveloped.

The study has generated a lot of data since its 2015 inception and involves tracking 55 female deer, more than 50 bucks, 35 elk and 26 coyotes.

The study aims to gain insight into the interactions the animal species have in the area. Keley Hussler, a UW master’s student involved in the project, said the research group spends several months each year in the Greater Little Mountain Area, capturing and collaring animals and collecting data.


Kevin Monteith, an assistant professor overseeing the project, described the area as a spider’s web of movement involving different animal species, with few clearly-defined winter and summer ranges.

While the group still works to answer questions involving why the animals move the way they do, Monteith said the hypothesis they have is the animals learn the movement routes from their mothers. Monteith said the research group continues testing that idea.

According to Hayes, the deer population in the area has struggled in recent years, with the population declining by about half in the last 10 years. In Hayes’ opinion, development would increase stresses on the mule deer in the area.

“The deer population is struggling there,” he said. “They don’t need any more challenges.”

 

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