Big Game Habitat
For mule deer, the Boise Foothills are a winter sanctuary. About 25,000 deer migrate here each winter, from throughout the Boise River drainage, to escape the deep snow and brutal cold of Idaho’s high country. Many have walked from as a far away as the Sawtooth Mountains, 120 miles distant. The deer fan out across the Boise Foothills, seeking the sun’s warmth on south-facing slopes and the branch tips of gangly bitterbrush shrubs, which are a vital protein-rich food source.
Although the Foothills provide critical winter habitat, some mule deer, and increasing numbers of elk, are here through every season, searching for food and for cover. In this area the elk are largely nocturnal, to avoid people, while mule deer are most active at dawn and dusk. In the spring and summer, deer browse green leafy plants when available, along with berries and other fruit. Best of all is when their preferred foods are found near the safety of cover: cover for resting, for warmth, for shade, and for protection from predators.
Game animals rut in the fall. Does carry their young through winter, giving birth in spring. Calves and fawns of deer and elk are choice targets of foothills predators—coyotes, mountain lions and, once again, wolves—along with mature game weakened by age, weather, lack of forage, or harassment by people or pets.