Utah Deer Population:   The state estimated less than 300,000 mule deer at the end of 2023, falling from 334,970 mule deer at the end of 2022 and 305,700 in 2021.  Above the recent low of 268,180 in 2003, but about the same as the 1998 population of 307,500.  Estimated at 314,850 in 2020, down from 372,500 in 2018.  The peak population over the last 25 years was in 2015 with an estimated 384,650 deer after four mild winters.  The harsh 2022-23 and 2016-17 winters prompted emergency feeding and reduced the herd.  Drought in 2018 and 2016 also reduced the herd.   A 40 year downward trend from a peak population of about 600,000 in the 1950s and 1960s.

Utah Deer News

‘It’s not abandoned’: Wildlife officials urge Utahns not to take deer fawns, elk calves home May 28, 2024 Utah, Yahoo

... Deer and elk leave their newborns alone most of the time during the first weeks of their lives, until they are strong enough to accompany their mothers. If someone takes the fawn away from its hiding spot, Mangus said, it’s unlikely the mother will ever find their offspring...

Utah Wildlife Board approves 2024 big game hunting permits, changes to shed antler gathering May 3, 2024 Utah Division of Wildlife Resources - Utah.gov

...  We are anticipating excellent winter survival and are happy to see our deer populations starting to look better after being hit hard by the severe winter in 2022–23, especially in the northern parts of the state... The most important factors that drive deer population numbers are the survival rates of doe deer (since bucks don't have babies), fawn production and fawn survival after the winter. The way we hunt buck deer in Utah doesn't drive deer populations, but what happens with deer populations drives how we hunt buck deer." ..,

Record 1,779 big game animals assessed, GPS collared during winter captures April 22, 2024 Utah Division of Wildlife Resources - Utah.gov

... During the 2023-24 winter, the following animals were captured, assessed and released: Bighorn sheep: 209, Bison: 27, Deer: 1,153, Elk: 305, Moose: 18, Pronghorn: 67

During captures in November and December, DWR biologists collect crucial data and analyze it... collecting data for the last 10 years in Utah ...

Utah's War on Cougars April 16, 2024 The Wildlife News

... HB469 ...  permits hunting and trapping of cougars year-round in Utah with no restriction on take... 469 became law ... The State of Utah filed a Motion to Dismiss our lawsuit in December 2023 on the ground that the legality of 469 is a political question, not a constitutional one...

How lawsuits seeking to restore protections for wolves in the northern Rockies could affect Utah April 9, 2024 Utah, abc4.com on MSN

... The two similar lawsuits were filed Monday in federal district court in Montana, and both argue that newly loosened hunting policies in northern Rocky Mountain states, specifically Montana and Idaho, threaten to decimate wolf populations across the region...

Utah proposes 6,800 more general buck hunting permits March 29, 2024, KSL

... The state's estimated population has now fallen to below 300,000 deer ... Many of the cuts made over the past few years were done to account for extreme drought throughout the state, which wiped out food options and worsened deer conditions. It's a big reason why the estimated deer population dropped the way it did...

Some animals transform their hair structure to battle winters March 18, 2024 Utah, earth on MSN

... Millet meticulously examined hairs from three iconic big game animals: pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and Rocky Mountain elk. Under the SEM's intense gaze, she discovered an intricate system resembling a messy honeycomb – a network of tiny air pockets... the honeycomb structure changes dramatically between summer and winter...

Local nonprofit wants more wildlife crossings built on Utah highways March 10, 2024 Fox 13

... “Over the 10-year period between 2010 and 2020, there were 247 vehicle wildlife collisions here on SR-224 at an estimated cost of $7.5 million based on UDOT’S cost-crash criteria. So $7.5 million could pay for a crossing,” said Farkas...

Deer faring well from this year's winter March 7, 2024 Utah, Cache Valley Daily

... This year’s winter has been different; the snow is not as deep and the cold has not been as bad as last year... “We observed heavy, fat and healthy does, highest statewide average body fat levels observed in the last 10 years since we started this project ... We measured record high adult doe body fat percentages on the Cache, Morgan, Wasatch-Manti, Monroe and Pine Valley units.” ..,

Where Utah plans to build more wildlife crossings February 27, 2024 ABC4 Utah

... there are currently about 50 wildlife crossings in the state, mostly targeting mule deer as they are the species most involved in vehicle collisions ... Utah has won a $5.5 million grant to build three wildlife underpasses on U.S. Highway 89 near Kanab...

The Amazing Trace: tracking the 1,000-mile journey of a Utah cougar February 13, 2024 Utah Division of Wildlife Resources - Utah.gov

...  two-year-old collared female cougar — designated F66 by the researchers ... her journey, which totaled a little over 1,000 miles! She would visit three states — Utah, Wyoming and Colorado — and would cross busy highways such as I-80 (twice), I-25, I-70 and Highway 40 throughout her five-month-long trek..,

Utah's 'shed hunting' season to begin on time as deer conditions improve January 31, 2024 KSL

... more than 20,000 people go out and search for dropped antlers every season... With closer-to-normal winter conditions reported statewide this winter and deer herds showing signs of improvement, this year's antler season will begin on time ..,

Wildlife biologists capture and tag elk calves at ranch near Idaho-Utah border  January 27, 2024 Utah, Idaho State Journal

... at Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area   ...The data from the collar shows whether the calves returned to Hardware Ranch, what land they are using for their summer range and if they are hunted by other wildlife ...

Rudolph, is that you? Utah DWR fly in deer to help track migration December 19, 2023 Utah, fox13now

... Officials say approximately 1,200 deer are captured by biologists around the state each winter and fitted with GPS collars, and then brought to a staging area where DWR performs health assessments before letting the animals back into the wild...

DWR, UDOT receive over 3K reports of wildlife killed by vehicles through Roadkill Reporter app after first year December 18, 2023 Utah DNR News

... During the first year of the app's release, a total of 3,843 animals were reported with it. Roughly 98% of the reported animals killed by vehicles were mule deer — a total of 3,611 deer. However, it's estimated that only about half of deer-vehicle collisions are reported, and DWR biologists estimate that around 10,000 deer are actually hit and killed by vehicles in Utah annually...

Heber council to let city deer live December 6, 2023 Utah, KPCW

... councilmembers were reluctant to entertain the plan.  Yvonne Barney said deer in her backyard weren’t a nuisance and she objected to a sweeping plan.  Ryan Stack concurred, saying under no circumstances should firearm hunting be considered...

Utah to receive $5.5 million to build new wildlife overpass bridges December 5, 2023 Fox 13

... grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation ... These bridges are part of a plan to restore populations of big game wildlife such as the Paunsaugunt mule deer...

Chronic wasting disease confirmed in Payson deer November 30, 2023 Utah, Yahoo

... Chronic wasting disease ... has been found for the first time in Payson... State Wildlife Veterinarian Ginger Stout said the disease appears to be spreading as the DWR is finding the disease in new areas..,  DWR report

DWR stresses importance of preventing chronic wasting disease when transporting hunted big game November 20, 2023 Utah, St George News

.... Currently, 158 mule deer and four elk have tested positive for CWD in Utah. However, it isn’t widespread in the state and is only found in six hunting units in Utah — primarily in a few counties in central, northeastern and southeastern Utah..,

Utah DWR asks for tips after moose shot, left to waste November 13, 2023 Gephardt Daily

... Officers received a report of a bull moose that was killed in the Strawberry River Drainage in Wasatch County. Investigators estimated that the incident occurred sometime between Oct. 7 and 12...

DWR seeking info after deer illegally killed, struck by large boulder November 6, 2023 Utah, KTVX Salt Lake City

... After the shot injured the deer, the person allegedly began to “throw several large boulders at the deer, one of which struck the animal in the head,” the release states.  The individual reportedly then loaded the deer into the back of a beige pickup truck and left the area...

Utah allocates funds to build more wildlife crossings November 3, 2023  Public News Service

... Utah joins other Western states in enacting bills that allow them to receive millions of dollars in federal matching funds to install wildlife overpasses, underpasses and fencing... the state's $20 million appropriation will turn into $100 million ...

Utah seeks to implement, study deer hunt changes in 2024 as deer populations struggle October 26, 2023 KSL

... "We want to determine if hunt restrictions ... can improve mule deer population performance, hunting opportunities and hunting satisfaction in Utah," said Kent Hersey, big game projects coordinator  ... An antler point restriction would require that hunters only harvest bucks with four points or more on at least one side of an antler. This would protect most bucks under 3 years of age...

Utah's cougars could go extinct with hunting law, lawsuit says October 20, 2023 KSL NewsRadio

... A lawsuit is calling for a Utah law allowing cougars to be hunted all year to be thrown out.  H.B. 469 was made effective back in May. It legalized unlimited, year-round hunting and trapping of cougars...

As Utah’s hunt gets underway, here’s what tracking tells us October 19, 2023 Deseret News

... Most deer in Utah don’t wander far from where they are born, typically migrating 10 to 15 miles annually.  They tend to travel the pathways taught to them by their mothers and taught to those does by their mothers, which has been verified by data collected from GPS units attached to collars by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists....

Where are the deer? Utah wildlife leaders update deer population status before the hunt October 18, 2023 Utah, KSL

... Utah's deer population began to drop as extreme drought conditions formed in 2017 and 2018. Despite a bump from a wet 2019, conditions worsened from an even drier span from 2020 to 2022.  The state lost an estimated 80,000 deer during these two drought stretches, , wiping out most of the population gains made during better conditions that existed from 2011 to 2015 ..,

Feds to send 'once-in-a-generation funding' to Utah, Western conservation projects September 5, 2023 Utah, KSL TV

... the Mule Deer Foundation ... are receiving $3.5 million ... ooking at “multiple places” to conduct projects across southern Utah to help mule deer herds in the area, along with projects along the Utah-Idaho border...

Utah big game hunting season starts next week August 11, 2023 KPCW

... For the fifth year, the DWR has lowered the number of hunting permits to manage buck to doe ratios.  The record-breaking winter took a toll on the deer populations in Cache, Weber, Summit and Morgan counties, leaving fewer deer ..,

What hunters should know for the 2023 Utah deer and elk hunts August 8, 2023 Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

... The current deer management plan includes an objective to have 404,000 deer across Utah, and the 2022 postseason population estimate is 335,000 deer in the state... The deer populations in Cache, Weber, Summit and Morgan counties were hit pretty hard by the severe winter conditions and had lower survival rates of adult doe deer and fawns in those areas...  the 2022 postseason population estimate is 82,960 elk in the state...,

Video Below:  Residents in Elk Ridge enraged after City Leadership new deer policy.  This new policy has been a controversial and emotional topic for many. Several residents are receiving death threats due to the new policy.  August 3, 2023 Utah

Program to trap, kill nuisance deer in Elk Ridge set to begin despite some pushback August 1, 2023 Utah, KSL News

... Peterson says the deer will be lured with bait then captured in netting traps. He predicts 15 to 20 animals will be euthanized this year... Many residents, including Phil Thaut, argue the deer add charm to Elk Ridge and they're not causing any harm...

Moose rescued in South Weber June 28, 2023 Utah, Gephardt Daily

... Workers used a backhoe and removed two concrete blocks to create an escape route for the trapped moose...

North Ogden leaders — again — debate urban deer issue June 24, 2023  Utah, Standard-Examiner

... North Ogden leaders debated the issue previously, in 2017, as urban deer seemed to convert from an issue only in the cold of winter to a year-round thing, wreaking havoc on some fruit and vegetable patches. The city ultimately decided to conduct a deer count to get a gauge of the issue, but from there, concern and interest in acting seemed to peter out...

New Research Sheds Light on How Artificial Lighting Can Influence Risk of Roadkill June 6, 2023 Utah State University

... Newly published research ... found that the deer tended to make their way across roads where surrounding artificial light was especially low... opens an opportunity to design interventions that better support wildlife with things like targeted placement of fences, signs to inform drivers, improved lighting and wildlife crossing structures...

New deer crossing tech will alert drivers when wildlife is nearby May 9, 2023 Utah, KSL NewsRadio

... “[The sign] uses infrared technology to sense as the deer get close to the highway,” said Josee Seamons, a biologist with the Division of Wildlife Resources.  When animals get close, the system can alert drivers to nearby wildlife in real time...

Utah Deer:   A more normal 2023-24 winter with deer in good condition.  Deer populations fell below 300,000 at the end of 2023 with the severe winter and drought. The DWR started emergency deer feeding in early 2023 for northern Utah because of deep snow which resulting in high mortality rates and drove deer and elk to lower elevations and onto roads.  The state recommended reduced hunting because of the harsh winter and previous droughts.  Based on their December, 2022 analysis, the state estimated a mule deer population of 334,970

Data for the chart  above, population estimates from the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources as reported to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) and as reported by the DWR in 2022 and 2021.  

For 2021 the state estimated 305,700 deer with continued drought depleting the population but some rain which improved the situation.  The population is down from the 2020 estimate of 314,850 which was the lowest pre-hunt population in 10 years due largely to drought.  In early 2022 the estimate for 2021 was expected to be lower, around 285,000.  Biologists' recommendation of a reduction in hunting permits with a goal of boosting the population to 400,000 was approved.  About 4,900 deer were killed by vehicle collisions in 2022A mild 2021-22 winter, but continued drought in 2022.  

Droughts in 2021, 2020 and 2018 have been hard on deer and other wildlife. The state estimated a deer population of 372,500 in 2018 and 2019, up from about 363,650 in 2017.  Mule deer numbers appeared to be falling in 2019 and 2020 due to the 2018 drought and harsh 2019 winter.  The state increased cougar hunting quotas and reduced deer permits in response for 2020.  

The state estimated 375,000 deer in January, 2017, down from 385,000 in 2016.  A hard 2018-19 winter but deer survival was relatively good with 92% alive into April.  Severe drought in 2018  reduced deer and elk populations.  About 384,000 deer in 2015 after the fall hunt with about 23 bucks per 100 does. The harsh winter of 2016-17 reduced populations in some areas.

 The 2018 and 2019 target sex ratio was 15 to 20 bucks per 100 does. About 21 bucks per 100 does in 2016, higher than the state objective in 2016 for most units of 18 to 20 per 100 does. 2015 Herd Status. Mule deer buck permits increased for 2016. Lots of rain in spring of 2015 provided food and helped keep the deer population at around the highest level since the 1990s.  In the early 1990s the mule deer buck to doe ration was 8 to 100, 23 to 100 by 2016. 

DWR estimated 355,600 deer in Utah after the hunts in 2014, an increased over the estimated 332,900 mule deer in Utah after the hunts in 2013, 318,000 in 2012, 286,000 in 2011, 289,000 in 2004 and 322,000 in 2000 - post hunt. Recent mild winters have brought the population back during the last few years after a long downward trend of over 40 years.   DWR comments that "better habitat and other efforts like highway fencing, wildlife underpasses and predator control have also played a role in the rebound."   The 2013 deer population was about half of what it was in the 1970s and 1980s - about 660,000 deer.

The state issued 86,550 deer permits in 2015, 84,800 in 2014, 84,600 in 2013, and 79,066 in 2012 for a success ratio of 37 percent with 29,411 deer harvested. Populations have been climbing since the hard winters of 2007 and 2008. An estimated 50,000 deer hunters in 2015. Hunter success rose from 37 percent in 2013 to 43 percent in 2015. 

 About 19 bucks for every 100 does in 2014, increasing to 21 per 100 in 2015. Only about 8 bucks per doe in 1995, as the population was falling. Although many state deer management strategies include the goal of balancing demographics to maintain good herd health, age and sex distributions similar to a wild herd, the DWR was targeting a buck-to-doe ratio of 15 to 20 bucks per 100 does. 

In 2013, the ratio was estimated at 19 bucks per 100 does. The target is designed to maximize short-term herd growth, allowing hunters to take as many bucks as possible, assuming that one buck can impregnate multiple does. Recent research indicates this strategy may be unsustainable. Buck-to-doe ratios were below state objectives in many areas in 2013.   

A population estimate of  286,000 after the hunt in 2011 and 318,000 after the hunt in 2012.   Fall 2012 fawn survival was 65 per 100 does.  About 275,000 deer in 2010 down from 600,000 in 2000.  Another estimate of 302,000 in 2010 down from 340,000 in 1992.

Fewer permits for 2011 to reverse the falling buck  population.

Chronic Wasting Disease was first discovered in Utah in 2002.   In 2019 a reported 16 positives.  By 2021 prior to the hunting season 124 mule deer and three elk have tested positive.  By September, 2022, 158 mule deer and 3 elk tested positive.  In 2023 the state began a CWD study in the Moab area which has he highest infection rate in the state at about 5%.  By November, 2023, 158 mule deer and four elk had tested positive.

 History  In 1908 the deer season was closed to protect the herd from over hunting. The season reopened in 1913 with a bucks only regulation to help increase the population. Although the rule remained in effect until the 1950's, limited harvest of does began in 1934.  A catastrophic winter in 1948-49 decimated the deer herd.  "In Utah the mule deer population was estimated to have increased from 8,500 in 1916 (p. 2) to a peak of 375,000 in the 1945-50 period."

A peak population of around 600,000 mule deer in the 1950s and 1960s.

The deer harvest peaked at 132,000 in 1961. In 1975 the state reinstated the bucks only rule to bolster the declining population. Another devastating winter in the 1983-84 significantly reduced the herd. "Following several years of drought and an unusually hard winter in 1992–1993, it was evident that Utah’s deer herd could no longer sustain unlimited hunting opportunity, and in 1994, buck deer permits were capped for the first time." From State Management Plan [PDF] The loss of key winter range has contributed to the decline of the mule deer population. Also see Mule Deer: A Handbook for Utah Hunters and Landowners   A population estimate of 322,000 deer post-hunt in 2000.

Utah built the first wildlife crossing in North America in 1971.  

Elk  An estimate of 75,000 elk in early 2023. The 2022 postseason population estimate in December was for 82,960 elk in the state.  About 80,000 in 2019 and 2021

Moose  Estimated at 2,500 to 3,000 in 2022 and 2021.  At 2,600 in 2017, down from 3,500 in 2005.   Nearly hunted to extinction by around 1906 until a ban on hunting.

Cougar population estimated at 2,500 in 2023, 2,700 in 2019.  At 2,000 to 4,000 in 2018.  At 1,900 to 4,000 in 2017.  At 2,500 to 4,500 in 2015, based on available habitat population models, although the population is thought to be growing.  A 2024 reports a 1,000 trip by one of Utah's cougars.

Report poaching:   Call the poaching hotline at 800-662-3337. callers can remain anonymous.  Email turninapoacher@utah.gov

    What to Do If You Find a Fawn

Mule Deer: From the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA).  Mule deer numbers and distribution have been declining throughout the West since the latter third of the 20th century. To address this concern, the Mule Deer Working Group was established at the midwinter meeting of WAFWA in 1998. The group was charged with finding “solutions to our common mule deer management problems,” expanding “cooperative research and management in the Western states and provinces,” and sharing information with agency directors and administrators on mule deer issues."

Image below shows hunters afield and deer harvest for Utah from 1925 to 2014, data from 2014 Big Game Report [PDF]

"Mule deer thrive in early successional habitats, where forbs, grassy plants and shrubs dominate. These environments are not as stable as forest habitats, and they rely on fire or some other type of disturbance to return them to an early successional stage. If they are not disturbed, they eventually become more stable plant communities dominated by trees and large shrubs. Tree-dominated habitats offer mule deer a place to retreat from severe weather, but these areas offer very little in the way of food. That is why it is important to provide mule deer with a mosaic or pattern of habitats that can provide food, cover and water."