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CHEYENNE-- If the winter of 2008-09 so far is any indication, wildlife should be entering the spring in good shape and biologists are looking forward to a good production year from Wyoming's major big game species.

However, game managers caution that more spring rains or snows are needed if the range is to be able to sustain the habitat improvements that were made with the moist conditions of the previous year. In general, it is an open winter in most parts of the state and the animals are getting through the cold months in very good condition.

Even though much of the state received good moisture a year ago, wildlife managers throughout Wyoming say more is needed. "One good year does not catch you up on years of drought stressed habitat," said Laramie Wildlife management coordinator Terry Creekmore.

Jackson wildlife coordinator Scott Smith echoed these comments and said that timely rains during the spring and summer are necessary to continue good growth of important forage plants such as sagebrush. "A good snow pack in the mountains is important for water storage," said Lynn Jahnke, wildlife coordinator in Sheridan, "but it is the moisture received on the critical winter range areas at lower elevations that is of greatest benefit to wildlife."

In southwest Wyoming, Green River wildlife management supervisor Mark Zornes said the winter ranges are completely open and though there have been occasional cold snaps, the winter had been mild and as a result, he doesn't expect significant mortality this year. "Antelope are in good shape and the buck ratio is high," Zornes said. "A year ago we lost quite a few deer but we went into the winter with good deer numbers in many areas." Zornes said the deer herd in the popular Baggs area is looking good and the winter of 2007-08 wasn't as bad as earlier thought. He expects quotas for elk, deer and antelope to stay about the same as previous years.

Conditions are much the same in southeast Wyoming. It has been a mild winter said Creekmore. "The south end of the Platte Valley had deeper snows than some areas but there is no indication of excessive mortality. Creekmore said because of good forage last year the animals went into the winter in good shape."

In the Jackson area, Smith said the winter so far has been mild by comparison to other winters, with snow pack on the winter ranges for deer and antelope below average with some of the winter ranges free of snow. He expects below average winter mortality, but said season recommendations will be fairly conservative for deer and liberal for antelope. He also indicated that some areas need more elk harvest and seasons and that seasons quotas will be proposed to harvest more cow elk.

In central Wyoming, Casper wildlife management coordinator Daryl Lutz said with the open winter he expects the deer and antelope seasons and quotas to be much the same as the previous years, with elk seasons likely a little more liberal. An open winter is also the order of the day in the Cody and Lander areas. Even though there have been cold spells, these have been alternated with warm ups and have left the animals in good condition. Greybull biologist Tom Easterly said the winter in the west Bighorns has been fairly mild and the animals are looking good.

Sheridan biologists also say that even with the cold and snow early on, so far, there are no trouble spots. Jahnke said that barring a heavy spring blizzard the animals should come through the winter in good shape. He said there may be a few more antelope licenses this year but major changes are not anticipated. A big change in the Sheridan area a year ago split old nonresident Region C into two regions. The new region C includes hunt areas east of Interstate 25 while Region Y includes the western portion of old region C. "This split gives us more flexibility in managing the hunting pressure in the regions," Jahnke said.

Hunters can learn proposals for all big game species seasons and quotas at a series of statewide public meetings to be held Mar. 31 and Apr. 1. Dates, locations and times of each of the meetings are on the Game and Fish Web site. Hunters can also call their local Game and Fish office or Cheyenne Game and Fish Headquarters (307) 777-4600 for locations and dates.

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