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Do Whitetails Migrate?: Washington Study Aims to Pattern Deer Movement

Alex Robinson Avatar

As whitetail deer continue to expand their range in the West, a study out of Washington state is looking to figure out how far they travel, where they go, and where they come from.

The study is being conducted by the state Fish and Wildlife department, and last year researchers fitted 35 bucks, does, and fawns with locating transmitters. Another 35 deer were trapped and tagged this year.

In the East and Midwest, rule of thumb says that whitetails have a home range of a few thousand acres. But, researchers in Washington are finding that whitetails will migrate miles from summer to winter habitat.

“It’s somewhat surprising to see how far some whitetails were migrating from summer to winter ranges,” Woody Myers, Washington’s big-game research biologist, told the Columbian.

“The Midwestern and Eastern version of whitetail research shows whitetails with fairly small home ranges, just a few square miles. But we’re seeing some whitetails moving farther,” he said.

One doe traveled more than 20 miles from her summer range to her wintering range. The researchers hope that by figuring out when and where the deer travel, they’ll be able to set better hunting seasons and zones.

The project is scheduled to run for 3.5 years on $400,000 of federal grant money and state wildlife funds.