The Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration corridor, the longest known ungulate migration in the Lower 48
Red Desert to Hoback is the longest mule deer migration ever recorded, where deer travel one-way, 150 miles from their winter range in the Red Desert to the their summer range near Hoback Basin, south of Jackson. The deer that complete this journey spend four months of each year migrating and encounter a variety of natural and anthropogenic obstacles, including sand dunes, lake and river crossings, multiple highways, and more than 100 fences.
Residents along the western edge of the Wind Rivers always knew that they shared the landscape with ungulate herds, including bountiful deer. Like clockwork, mule deer appeared in full force every spring and fall. Groups of 20, 40 or 100 and more would linger in fields and meadows, before moving on to their next stop.
Where was their next stop? In 2012 the BLM funded a study conducted by researcher Hall Sawyer who placed radio collars on deer to track their movement. What he found was astonishing: each spring, mule deer migrate 150 miles from the Red Desert to the Hoback mountain range for summer range, then return to the Red Desert each fall.
These Red Desert mule deer join other migrating deer totaling almost 5,000 that use portions of this migration route each year, and the journey is not without obstacles and outright hazards. The mule deer migrate through narrow sections of navigable terrain at lake outlets, cross busy roads and highways, and make their way through 100 fences, many that pose challenges for easy passage. In addition, the mule deer migrate through a mix of public and private lands.
The Wyoming Migration Initiative conducted a migration assessment of this corridor, which outlined many of the challenges that deer face each year. With the goal of mitigating the most pressing of these challenges and obstacles that the mule deer face, the Red Desert to Hoback Partnership was created in 2014. Representing a diverse stakeholder group, the partnership brings together a wealth of skills and resources to address complex issues.