The vast expanses of the Red Desert are one of Joe Kenney’s favorite places in Wyoming. He’s been going there for years.
Spring and early summer are a great time to go see the desert’s wildlife — elk, mule deer, antelope and mustangs, the Lander resident told Cowboy State Daily.
Be when he and his wife took a long loop through the desert this week, they were shocked not by what they saw, but by what they didn’t see.
“Our entire trip was 175 miles, and we didn’t see any deer,” he said. “We saw about 100 antelope, and only two fawns.”
Where Are The Critters?
It’s the first time he can recall going into the desert without seeing deer, as well as numerous antelope fawns, usually twins.
He added that they saw one elk herd, as well as several mustangs.
What Kenney saw — or rather, didn’t see — jibes with what the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other observers have reported. This past winter took a horrific toll on deer and antelope herds in central and south-central Wyoming.
In some places, 50% to 80% of herds might have died, and the number of fawns plummeted.
This spring, parts of the range near La Barge were littered with mule deer and antelope carcasses, and even some dead elk.
Kenney said he was spared such grisly sights during his tour.
“We didn’t see any carcasses,” he said.
Wild horse advocate Carol Walker told Cowboy State Daily that while she was exploring another part of the Red Desert near Jeffrey City last month, she found winterkill mustang carcasses.
“I spent three days and found 15 dead horses and six live ones in Arapahoe Creek. It was a shocking and devastating experience for me,” she said.
New Green, New Hope
On the positive side, Kenney said the desert is about as green as he’s ever seen it. The wildlife that remains seems to have ample forage and water, thanks to massive snow melt-off, followed by rainstorms.
“In some places, the animals were belly-deep in grass,” he said. “They were too busy eating to pay any mind to us.”
The wildlife he saw looked healthy, Kenney added.
“The mustangs looked good. They were filled out and their coats looked slick,” he said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.