Following a Deer’s Tracks
Bridging the gap between deer empowerment and women empowerment is scientist and Coalition Snow Ambassador Samantha Dwinell. Learn more about her recent film endeavors about tracking a pregnant deer’s migratory patterns for weeks in the backcountry.
Name: Samantha Paige Dwinell
Home Range: Teton Backcountry
Coalition Gear: La Nieve Backcountry Ski
Movie Website: deer139film.org
“There’s a disconnect in scientific knowledge and public understanding,” said scientist and skier Samantha Swinell, who’s now made it her mission to change that. With a masters in Zoology, Sam has spent years researching migratory ungulates - which to normal civilians, can be better described as large hoofed mammals. Her most recent project is an all-women’s production film which tracks the migratory pattern of a badass deer that travels through the high mountain alpine environment. Learn more about Sam, the movie and the ideals she shares with Coalition Snow.
I’m glad we could finally reach each other! What were you doing in Capitol Reef?
I have some friends there that are really big into canyoneering and are part of Search and Rescue for the park. I went there to get trained on anchor building, rappelling and rope ascending, etc. I’m working on big horned sheep research in the Wind Rivers in North Central Wyoming and we collar young animals to study and track. Some of them we’ll have to rappel down the canyon to collar, so this trip was training for that.
With every job there is a sexier component to it - like getting out in the field and rappelling down to collar wild animals in the Winds is sort of the sexiest it can get. But honestly the majority of it is crunching numbers and writing papers.
How did you become involved with Coalition Snow?
For years I’ve worked as a scientist and for a handful of years now I’ve worked in the arena of academia. I’ve seen all this great science and information gathered on how animals interact and connect with their environment. It’s becoming more and more well understood, but all of that stays in the scientific community and is rarely articulated to the public. It’s really important for the public to understand the connection that wildlife has with their landscapes, especially for the public that recreates in all these areas.
I decided a year or so ago to make a film that shares the story of the connection that wildlife has with their landscape. At the time I was studying mule deer, which undergo these really long and incredible migrations. One was discovered to have an over 240-mile long migrations over really incredible terrain! I wanted to follow the migration route of one of my study animals to highlight how these seemingly mundane creatures are actually really incredible beings that are so connected with their landscape.
In doing that, we knew we had to traverse over the mountains because that’s what the deer do. I contacted Jen to see if she wanted to partner with us to help us share the story. Coalition Snow was interested in the story and message of landscape conservation, and instilling the message of conserving wild places not just for recreation but also for the wild animals that also rely on those same places.
When did you get to use the skis for the film?
We carried the skis all for the second part of the route. The deer in particular goes over two mountain passes that are covered in snow, so we got the skis so be able to ski and skin over those mountain passes. Unfortunately by the time we got up there the snow had melted to much that we barely got to use them! But we hauled them the whole way.
Is there a particular reason you decided to reach out to Coalition Snow?
The main reason is that this is an all-women production and we wanted to give a nod to all-women companies. Coalition Snow is a company that isn’t afraid to advocate for what they believe in and conservation stewardship is something we can all get behind and support. It was a good fit based on where the company’s values are and also it being an all-women company. Seemed almost a little too perfect!
What’s the name of the film?
Deer 139. That’s the animal whose migration route we followed. All our animals are assigned a number when we collar them and her ID is 139.
Even the main character of the film is a female!
The beauty of migration as well is that it’s such a female powered thing. Where mom migraties she teaches that to her offspring and they continue the exact route every year. Her female fawns will follow the same route and go to the same summer range and give birth and pass on the migration pattern generation after generation.