Where Do All the Deer Go?

Mule deer buck, Odocoileus hemionus, Swall Meadows

The Round Valley mule deer herd consists of roughly 2,000 Rocky Mountain mule deer that travel through the migration corridor twice a year. In the spring the herd migrates north to higher elevations and then makes the opposite trip to the low country (Round Valley area) in the late fall —funneling thousands of animals right through several residential communities. Viable winter range habitat is critical for a migrating deer herd. In severe winters with heavy snow, the deer must have access to the lowest elevations where forage is still accessible and movement is not hampered by deep snow. This is why the migration passage is so important! The herd migrates between its 30 square mile range in Round Valley up through the mid-elevations, and the one mile wide bottle neck in Swall Meadows, to the alpine meadows of the Central Sierra. The width of the Swall Meadows migration corridor is limited by the steep cliffs of Wheeler Ridge to the west and the deep canyon of Lower Rock Creek Gorge to the east.  Approximately 75% of the Round Valley deer herd make this migration north during the spring! The other 25% migrate through the Buttermilk area up into the Bishop Creek drainage and over the high passes into the Central Sierra.


Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) sponsors an annual field trip to the Wheeler Ridge Migration Corridor each March. The public is welcome to spend the afternoon experiencing an important section of our local wildlife migration corridor that provides critical passage not only for the Round Valley mule deer herd, but for other wildlife as well. This year the field trip will take place March 23, from 3-5 pm in Swall Meadows. Attendees will spend the afternoon exploring protected lands, witnessing the spectacular views from the corridor and hopefully witnessing the movement of the Round Valley deer herd as they make their journey northward! Special guest Mono County Wildlife Biologist Timothy Taylor, from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, will be there to share information and stories about the corridor, and will help answer any questions about the region. Everyone is welcome to attend!

ESLT works with willing landowners to preserve vital lands in the Eastern Sierra region for their scenic, agricultural, natural, recreational, historical, and watershed values. To date, 269 acres have been permanently preserved in the migration corridor and ESLT is currently working to preserve more! Nationwide, funded mainly by charitable donations and by private and government grants, United States land trusts now conserve more than 37 million acres of land including scenic areas, hiking trails, critical wildlife habitats, farms and ranches, and historic landmarks. Most land trusts operate locally, providing crucial land-use tools for property owners and citizens concerned with conservation on private lands. For more information about the Eastern Sierra Land Trust, and to reserve your spot for this year’s Migration Corridor Field trip visit eslt.org or contact ESLT at (760) 873-4554 or info@eslt.org!

By Madison Pauly, ESLT High School Intern