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NEWS - "Wildlife sees benefits from DWR projects"

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Mule deer grass behind a high fence. Projects planned by the DWR will help keep them and other wildlife where they belong. Photo by John Hurley

BOX ELDER COUNTY - By Ellen Cook, Headliner Media Specialist, April 5, 2022

Box Elder County has a lot of wide-open spaces and that means an abundance of wildlife. When the winter is harsh or the summer is hot, if there is a fire or even a drought, bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer, as well as other animals, suffer.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has partnered with other government agencies and received funding from private groups to help improve habitat across the state of Utah. That could mean reseeding terrain scarred by a fire, or it may mean removing unwanted trees that take up important feeding grounds. It could mean constructing crossings or fencing to keep wildlife in or out of a selected area.

Sydney Lamb, wildlife biologist with DWR, knows firsthand how those efforts can benefit Box Elder County.

Recently, following fires on Dennis Hill in the western part of the county, one such projects got underway.

“We worked with a couple of other agencies and the landowners to chain the area to rip up the soil and prepare it. We then chose a seed mix to plant that benefits both wildlife and agriculture,” Lamb said. That mix was loaded into a plane and dropped over the burnt area to try and get the best coverage for the reseed.

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The Dennis Hill fire in western Box Elder County left the landscaped black and scarred. A DWR project had it groomed and reseeded. ( See pictures below) Photos courtesy DWR

Another project taking place is in the Raft River Mountain Range and is being accomplished with help from the Forest Service.

“We have been losing some aspen stands up there recently, which are important for mule deer and elk,” Lamb noted. “We removed some juniper that were encroaching into the aspen stands. That allowed us to open up the understory so that more foliage would be available to wildlife.”

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Unwanted juniper trees were removed in the Raft River Mountains to help provide better foliage. See picture below. Photo courtesy DWR

On the other side of the county, near Honeyville, her department have been monitoring growth from a seeding project done several years ago following a fire.

“The plants are coming in really well that we planted,” Lamb said. “We are getting good reestablishment of sagebrush, bitterbrush and forbes. There has been a big section that’s come out as sunflowers. The deer seem to like them on the Coldwater. They hang out there quite a bit.”

Lamb said these projects are a positive way to keep wildlife, especially deer, where they belong and away from major roads.

“Certainly, higher quality foliage will keep them up and away from the roadways, but there is no surefire way, except if we built really tall fences. But promoting heavy growth of things that they like to eat helps keep them on the mountain,” Lamb said.

When it comes to tall fences, Lamb said that may take place along the freeway. “We are working on a project along the I-15 corridor between Tremonton and the Idaho border. We just put out a bunch of GPS collars on mule deer to track their movement across I-15,” she said. “We will give them a little bit of time to watch them to see how they migrate and where they cross the highway. Then we will work with UDOT to either put in some underpass wildlife crossings or install some more high fencing along that corridor.”

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The DWR is studying deer migration along the I-15 corridor between Tremonton and the Idaho border to determine the best plan for protecting them. Photo by John Hurley

These projects all take time, manpower and money.

“Every year we have money that gets donated from sportsmen’s groups that we use to improve habitat across the state. Some of that money is allocated toward improving sagebrush habitat, which is really important to mule deer and other sagebrush-obligate species like sage grouse. We use it to try and improve the habitat in general to create more foliage across the landscape. That money is there to reseed and reestablish habitat that has been taken out by fire,” Lamb said. “We are always looking to get interested parties involved, people who want to help with habitat improvement or just want to do something that benefits wildlife.”


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