July 2021 - 10

NEWS
A contracted crew member cuts dormant true mountain
mahogany along the north slope of the Laramie Range.
(Photo by Willow Bish/WGFD)
After one year of cutting this treated true mountain mahogany has palatable leader growth. (Photo by Willow Bish/WGFD)
Hands-on cutting efforts
improve mule deer habitat/forage
CASPER - The north slope of the Laramie
Range is shouldered by an invaluable
resource for wildlife that biologists from the
Wyoming Game and Fish Department and
land managers hope to improve.
True mountain mahogany is a prominent
shrub that typically grows in areas with steep
slopes and shallow soils. Mule deer in the
area rely heavily on this habitat type because
mahogany shrubs provide cover and forage.
Growth of this shrub has declined recently
due to loss of historic fire regimes.
However, Willow Bish, Game and
Fish terrestrial habitat biologist in Casper,
approached land managers in the area in
2018 with the idea of hiring contracting
crews to hand cut the mahogany with the
hope that it would spur a revitalization. True
mountain mahogany is a resprouting plant
that depends on disturbances to set back top
growth and resprout from the crown root.
This new growth is not only a favorite food
for mule deer, but also is nutritious for them.
The results of the hand-cutting have been
10 | July 2021
impressive so far. Bish said the treatments
have resulted in about an 1,800 percent
increase in leader growth production since
hand-cutting started in 2018. That area
encompassed about 1,000 acres of shrubs
across about 1,700 acres of federal, state,
county and private lands.
" Within the treatment areas, the goal is
to cut approximately 50 to 75 percent of the
shrubs in order to leave some higher-stature
shrubs to catch snow, which results in higher
localized moisture to help plants grow, "
Bish said.
Other treatments that were considered to
enhance true mountain mahogany growth in
the area were prescribed burns and herbicides.
Bish said prescribed burns are tricky over an
area with a wide-range of land ownership. She
also said many of the mahogany stands had
cheatgrass, an invasive species which often
responds favorably to fire. Bish added Game
and Fish tested herbicide applications, but
results were inconsistent and did not result
in the desired resprouting of the shrub.
Bish said there are " several thousand more
acres " of true mountain mahogany slopes
in this area of the Laramie Range, and she
plans to expand this hand-cutting project
in the future.
- WGFD staff
Others who helped
Organizations that contributed money to
hand-cutting operations of true mountain
mahogany on the north slope of the Laramie
Range include: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation,
Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resources Trust
Fund, Wyoming Governor's Big Game License
Coalition, Converse County Conservation District
and Russell Construction.
Land managers that supported the project
include: Little Deer Creek Ranch, Boot Ranch,
Duncan Ranch, Blackburn Cattle Company,
Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming
Office of State Lands and Investments and
Converse County.

July 2021

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https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/october-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/september-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/august-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/july-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/june-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/may-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/april-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/march-2021
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https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/January2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/December2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/September2020
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