A new government committee and engagement with Indigenous peoples in Alberta is underway to change mule deer hunting and conservation regulations. While not common in the Lesser Slave Lake area, these deer range across Alberta from the badlands to the boreal.
Alberta’s current mule deer management plan is over 30 years old, says an Alberta government news release. “A new advisory committee will modernize Alberta’s mule deer management plan to reflect current issues facing mule deer populations across the province.”
Alberta Professional Outfitters Society website says, “Mule deer are widely distributed big game animals in Alberta and biologists estimate their population at around 133,000. They are found from the far southern reaches to the boreal forests.”
Mule deer do not appear to be common in the Lesser Slave Lake area.
Lesser Slave Lake is within the Utikuma Lake Wildlife Management Unit 544 (WMU). The eastern tip of the lake and the area around Slave Lake are also part of Pelican Mountains (511) WMU. Smith is part of this region. Calling Lake (509) WMU is just east of 511.
In 2016, an aerial wildlife survey of Calling Lake WMU, reported one doe and fawn mule deer.
There were more moose and white-tail deer and some elk. In that region, mule deer require a special licence.
In 2019, an aerial survey of Utikuma Lake only found moose, neither white tail or mule deer.
Sustainable hunting is one of the key issues for the Alberta Mule Deer Management Plan Advisory Committee, says the news release. “Some areas of Alberta are seeing a decline in mule deer populations, causing conservation concerns. Other areas have an overpopulation of mule deer, causing issues with human-wildlife conflicts and vehicle collisions.”
The committee will meet until spring 2021.
The committee includes: Alberta Environment and Parks scientists, Fish and Wildlife, Alberta Professional Outfitters Society, Alberta Fish and Game Association, Alberta Bowhunters Association, Alberta Beef Producers, and Alberta Conservation Association.
At the same time, the government plans to speak with First Nations and Métis about the mule deer regulations, the media release says. This will include discussion of the spiritual and cultural importance of mule deer.
In Alberta, 11 per cent of mule deer have Chronic wasting disease (CWD) which kills any infected deer, says the news release.
The Alberta government’s website says it is a fatal brain disease which impacts both wild and farmed cervids (elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer and moose). In 1996, Alberta started monitoring CWD. The heads of deer and elk are tested for the disease. Any covid hunted in eastern Alberta from Cold Lake to the U.S. border must be sent in for testing. Elsewhere participation is voluntary.
Fish and Wildlife also test antelope, caribou, deer, elk, and moose for the disease when doing other tests.