Imperial Deer Study - Deer Zone D12, Burro Deer Herd

Lead CDFW biologists: Jane McKeever


The Burro deer herd is the lowest density deer herd in the state. These deer occupy the arid Sonoran Desert in the southeastern corner of California where summer temperatures are extremely hot and annual amounts of rainfall are extremely low. This harsh climate condition results in a harsh living environment where vegetation for forage and cover is limited, and water for deer to drink is scarce. Forage and water are considered factors that limit the Burro deer herd population.

The low density of deer and the vast desert environment have made it difficult to undertake scientific research to understand the dynamics of this deer herd. Celentano and Garcia (1984) provide key information regarding the Burro deer herd. Thompson and Bleich (1993) detailed the difficulty in obtaining deer herd demographics. In 1999, the Department began a 6 year research project, titled Water Development and Investigation, Imperial County, CA (Deer Zone D12) that would evaluate the importance of water and food as influences on dynamics of a desert mule deer population (Bleich 1999). Data gathered from radio-collared animals would provide the Department important demographic and habitat use information. This was a cooperative research project with University of Arizona and primarily by a Ph.D. graduate student, Jason Marshal, who was supervised by University of Arizona professor and Department staff.

This research greatly enhanced our knowledge of the relative importance of rainfall, forage, and water to mule deer, especially in the desert environment, and published works have provided very important information for more effective management of this herd. Conservation of forage diversity and habitat is recognized as important management tools to allow this desert deer herd to naturally fluctuate in this harsh desert environment.

Dr. Marshal is currently in the process of publishing more peer reviewed papers.

Deer Reports

Helicopter Capture - Sonoran Desert Mule Deer - high desert