ADF&G seeks mule deer sighting photos, samples
Mule deer, which are not native to Interior Alaska, are being seen more frequently in recent years and the Department of Fish & Game is asking hunters and other in the public to help the department learn more about the animals.
"It's kind of an interesting situation in Eastern and Interior Alaska because there have not been deer in that part of the state before, so these will be the first deer there," said Riley Woodford, information officer with the ADF&G's Division of Wildlife Conservation.
Sitka black-tailed deer, which are found in Southeast Alaska and other parts of the state at lower latitudes are a subspecies of mule deer, and are smaller than mule deer. Mule deer can be identified by their white rump patch.
The species's range has been expanding from its original habitat in the western Lower 48, Woodford says. Mule deer have established a population in the Yukon, which wildlife leaders say is where the deer in Alaska are most likely coming from.
"It's not a threat or problem, it's just something that wildlife managers really want to keep on top of because it's a new situation. There is potential for these animals, any animals that's coming in to bring in diseases or to have effects on the animals that are already here," Woodford said.
Mule deer can carry diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease and transport the moose winter tick.
Hunters are allowed to harvest mule deer, but ADF&G seeks samples from the animals to see if the animals are transporting any pathogens that could pose risk to other wildlife.
Additionally, people who are not hunters can also help the department learn more about the abundance and distribution of mule deer in Alaska by taking a photo.
"The first thing they should do if they can is take a picture and let Fish and Game know. That's how we've been documenting these deer for years, first around the Tok area, which makes sense because they would come in through the Alaska Highway corridor, and then in places a little further north," Woodford said.
You can learn more about reporting mule deer