Deer on the move


Searles cautions motorists in Mammoth area

The Round Valley deer herd is on the move near the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport, signaling the start of the spring migration, according to wildlife specialist Steve Searles.

While the migration is far from full speed, Searles told the Mammoth Town Council on March 20 that conditions are starting to be more conducive for the herd, which numbers up to 3,000 animals.

“The local deer are moving north of the airport,” said Searles as part of his spring wildlife report.

“We’re seeing that herd woke up, so it will soon be time to be careful in the U.S. 395-S.R. 203 corridor,” he said.

“We’re all seeing the grass start to sprout on the sides of the roads, so that brings the animals, and so this is a heads-up for everybody to slow down and watch out, and do a good job with the wildlife.”

The herd annually moves from its small winter range in Round Valley up through the mid-elevations and the one-mile-wide bottleneck in Swall Meadows.

Eventually, the herd finds the alpine meadows of the Central Sierra to give birth and to access good forage.

The width of the migration corridor in Swall Meadows is limited by the steep cliffs of Wheeler Ridge to the west and the deep canyon of Lower Rock Creek Gorge to the east. Twice a year they traverse their migration corridor where they face predators, cars, and increasing human presence.

Approximately 75 percent of the herd migrate north in the spring through Swall Meadows, around Wheeler Ridge in southern Mono County, turning west into Long Valley and up into the Mammoth area.

Both U.S. 395 and S.R. 203 lie square across the migration route, leading to an annual kill of many deer.

The surviving deer will veer off the migration route and travel up canyons into the High Sierra.

The other 25 percent migrate through the Buttermilk area up into the Bishop Creek drainage and over the high passes into the Central Sierra.