Mule deer habitat extends across jurisdictional boundaries. In the past, there were no range-wide habitat maps available that identified the distribution of mule deer in North America, nor was there a database that identifies the factors that limit the quality of mule deer habitat. When the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Mule Deer Working Group began planning for a Joint Venture Habitat Restoration Project, they found that the lack of these databases made cross-jurisdiction project planning impossible. They investigated methods to develop such databases and found that the previous project by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) was the most suitable model to adopt. This is particularly true given the commitment from RMEF to provide existing databases to this project at no cost to WAFWA. With this database in place, resource managers now have a tool that they can use to identify important mule deer habitats and to plan methods to maintain or enhance existing habitat values.
The project involved using a Delphi (expert opinion) approach to map all mule and black-tailed deer habitat in North America and Mexico. To accomplish this, regional representatives worked through state-based workshops to identify and delineate habitat on a state by state basis. Habitat areas were delineated on 1:250,000 sheet maps with a minimum mapping unit of approximately 6 square miles. Six categories of mule deer habitat were delineated, with 18 factors limiting or otherwise affecting the habitat. These data were digitized and compiled into a GIS database. This database can be used to assist in management programs such as habitat restorations that cross administrative boundaries.