New atlas charts the epic migrations of deer, elk and antelope

A six-year collaboration between cartographers from the University of Oregon and wildlife biologists from the University of Wyoming has resulted in the publication this fall of “Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates.”

With maps, photos and words, the volume documents the seasonal journeys of mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bison and other hooved mammals across the vast landscapes of Wyoming and adjacent Western states.

Two Ducks led the project: Matthew Kauffman, a 1992 UO biology graduate and a professor of wildlife biology at Wyoming, and Jim Meacham, a senior research associate in geography and executive director of the UO’s InfoGraphics Lab.

The authors will share stories from the atlas at a book-signing event from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, in the Knight Library Reading Room.

The UO team included production manager Alethea Steingisser, a 2006 UO geography graduate, as well about 15 undergraduate and graduate students who contributed to the project over six years.

The atlas features photos from Joe Riis, a National Geographic photographer; essays by natural history writer Emilene Ostlind; and a foreword by Annie Proulx, the acclaimed writer and former Wyoming resident.

But the detailed maps, outlining the epic, seasonal journeys of ungulates, are what makes the book unique. The authors used data collected from GPS collars and innovative cartographic methods to visualize the migrations of the animals across the plains and mountains of Wyoming.

Mule deer, for instance, begin “surfing the green wave” each spring, moving from high desert sagebrush plains up into the foothills and mountains. Lean and undernourished, the animals refuel enroute to their summer ranges on tender grasses and wildflowers that spring out of the ground as the snow melts.

One such route, from the Red Desert to the Hoback Basin, runs 150 miles, the longest mule deer migration corridor in the world.

These journeys are fraught with peril, with threats both natural and man-made. The authors are hopeful the book will highlight the threats posed to animals and inform better conservation efforts.

“‘Wild Migrations’ grew out of the idea that if we made better maps of the migration corridors these herds depended on, we could do a better job of conserving them,” Kauffman said.

By Tim Christie, University Communications