Tracking the migration: After 25-year wait, another area deer study is under way | SierraSun.com

Tracking the migration: After 25-year wait, another area deer study is under way

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish anSara Holm of Fish and Game and Mike Cox of the Nevada Department of Wildlife put a tracking collar on a deer this fall. The collars will help Fish and Game study the movements of a deer herd between Truckee and Verdi.
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TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; The first study of a local deer herdand#8217;s migration in more than 25 years is under way.

The California Department of Fish and game will be tracking the Verdi sub-unit of the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd, which migrate back and forth between the Martis Valley and Verdi throughout the year. A similar study last occurred in 1982.

and#8220;The study has finally begun! We now have 16 collars deployed on adult, female deer,and#8221; said Sara Holm, a Fish and Game biologist, in an e-mail interview.

Eleven collars use GPS tracking, storing the data on-board until Fish and Game collects the collars, and five allow the department to track movement every few days via satellite communication, Holm said. All are set to fall off the deer and be collected in February 2011.

The study is important in considering development both on the California and Nevada side of their range, as it could impede their yearly movement, Holm said to the Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board in August.

and#8220;These deer have to move to survive; they canand#8217;t make it in Truckee in the winter,and#8221; Holm said.

Holm, along with members of the grassroots conservation group SOS Glenshire, asked the airport board for about $24,000 to aid the study, saying the study will tie into the airportand#8217;s ownership of Waddle Ranch in the Martis Valley, a potential fawning site for the herd.

The board deferred the decision, asking for another proposal that more closely tied the study to airport operational needs.

Holm then came back to the board on Oct. 22, requesting just short of $8,000 for the purchase of three GPS collars.

and#8220;The board was very receptive … and in the end decided to fund two satellite collars, which was more money than I had initially asked for,and#8221; Holm said. and#8220;Itand#8217;s so exciting to have them on board.and#8221;

Airport Board Member Tom Van Berkem said the ability to get real-time information about the herd swayed the board.

and#8220;What we found with the satellite-equipped collars we would be able to get real-time information on the location of the deer herd from a safety point of view,and#8221; he said. and#8220;If we sensed they were moving toward the runway we could get real-time data.and#8221;

According to the airport districtand#8217;s staff report, at least one landing aircraft has been damaged by colliding with a deer on the runway.

Other funding so far has come from the Martis Fund, the Department of Fish and Game and in-kind work from other agencies.

Holm said she is still hoping to raise additional funding, to bring the total to 20 collars by next summer.

and#8220;Once we get the first set of data back we will begin to analyze it but the study needs to continue for 3-5 years in order to have enough data sets to have some really strong management implications,and#8221; Holm said.

Beyond the land-use implications of the study, Holm said she hopes to bring the deer tracking into area classrooms.

and#8220;I’m very proud that we were able to introduce a curriculum and hands-on program to many of the students of Sierra County, and I hope we can bring some of that to the students in Truckee,and#8221; Holm said. and#8220;We’d like to see a classroom and#8216;adopt’ these collared deer and be able to track their movements via classroom computers.and#8221;