Friday, May 05, 2006

MARYLAND NEWS: Deer SWAT teams in suburban Washington DC

Excerpt from today's Washington Post

"It might sound strange to think of deer SWAT teams in the suburbs," said Norman, 50, a soft-spoken pastor with wire-rimmed glasses. "But if we don't do something pretty soon the deer will be stampeding down the streets."

Desperate to control exploding deer populations, some Washington area communities have turned in recent years to organized hunts -- often by recreational hunters -- to thin the herds. Now they are relying more and more on sharpshooters and police SWAT teams to hunt the animals even in some densely populated neighborhoods.

The District and Fairfax and Montgomery counties --not to mention private citizens -- have hired professional sharpshooters to kill the animals.

Even in an area where development often collides with nature, the rise of the suburban sharpshooter stands out as problematic. But deer control experts say the use of sharpshooters is often a safer or most efficient way to reduce the number of animals in densely populated residential areas.

Earl Hodnett, Fairfax County's wildlife biologist, said the county realized in 1998 that it had to take drastic steps when it found as many as 400 deer per square mile in some parks, more than 20 times the ecologically desirable level. Members of the police SWAT team have been assigned to hunt deer, shooting from the back of an olive drab pickup truck in parks near homes in such places as Great Falls and Clifton.

In Montgomery, which also uses police tactical officers as deer sharpshooters, the number of deer killed in organized hunts in county parks has skyrocketed from 19 in 1999, the year the program began, to 535 this year.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

ILLINOIS NEWS: Special hunt at rest area includes bucks, helps migratory birds

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will hold a special deer hunt during the 2006 firearm season at the Baldwin Lake Rest Area, but with a couple of changes.

"This year, permittees will be able to purchase an additional either-sex permit at the site office after they have harvested an antlerless deer on the rest area," said Mic Middleton, site superintendent. "In the past, only antlerless deer could be taken.

The changes are necessary to manage the deer herd in and around the rest area, according to Brian Mahan, IDNR district wildlife biologist.

"The number of deer is making it difficult to maintain the food available for migrating and resident waterfowl," Mahan said. "We believe hunter interest and deer harvest will increase by offering the chance to take a nice buck, a lot of which frequent the rest area."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

NORTH DAKOTA NEWS: Captive Deer Escape, Wild Deer at Risk

Eleven captive white-tailed deer escaped from a landowner's enclosure south of Bismarck over the weekend, leading to concerns about the potential spread of disease among wild deer inhabiting MacLean Bottoms.

State veterinarian Susan Keller alerted North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists about the escape by an e-mail sent on Monday.

"(One) of the deer has returned," Keller wrote in the e-mail. "The owner has ordered CWD sample cups by overnight air and hopes to be able to destroy the escaped deer and test them for CWD."

Keller and deputy state veterinarian Beth Carlson were attending meetings on Tuesday and were not available for comment.

Keller's e-mail identified the landowner as Gerald Landsberger.

"I'm trying to find the problem," he said Tuesday. "It was caused by a stray dog, and I'm trying to find the owner. If word gets out, nobody will 'fess up."

Asked how many whitetails still were missing, he said, "I have nothing else to say at this time."

The concern is having deer that have been confined get loose and mix with wild deer. "That's why the Board of Animal Health has regulations regarding that," said Bill Jensen, a NDGFD big-game biologist.

"Those deer are in a prime river bottom area. It's scary when penned deer mingle with wild deer, especially in an area where we have a pretty high deer density," said Jeb Williams, NDGFD outreach biologist.

Chronic wasting disease is just one concern.

"There are so many unknowns," Williams said.

Ten of the captive deer have small tags in their ears, and one doe has a large white dangle tag in the ear, Keller wrote in her e-mail.

Under current Board of Animal Health policies, the owner of the loose deer has 10 days to recover them, said Greg Link, NDGFD assistant wildlife division chief, who also sits on the nontraditional livestock advisory council.

After that, the Board of Animal Health notifies NDGFD or USDA Wildlife Services that the 10 days are up, and "if you see these deer with the ear tags, dispatch them," Link explained. Tissue samples for CWD testing are taken from any of the deer that are found and killed.

There is no fine unless the owner was not in compliance, Link added.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Hunting controversy at National Wildlife Refuge

If deer hunting was outlawed at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the 8,000-acre site would be a harsh, deforested place for many creatures. Deer hunting is vital to the health of the 8,000 acres in the southeast Morris County, said refuge manager William Koch.

So, while he couldn't comment on the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance effort to block a lawsuit that seeks to ban hunting on some other refuges, Great Swamp manager William Koch is quick to praise the efforts of hunters at Great Swamp.

"Deer can have a very negative impact on the habitat, which is not only habitat for deer but also for many other species," he said.

In a lawsuit, The Fund for Animals/Humane Society of the United States asserts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot allow hunting on 37 wildlife refuges without first creating an environmental impact statement (EIS) for each site. This would entail embarking on expensive and lengthy studies the Sportsmen's Alliance argues are unnecessary and not required by law.

"In simplest terms, Congress ... expressly recognized the legitimacy of hunting on units of the (refuge system) and directed the (Fish and Wildlife Service) to facilitate and increase these opportunities whenever they are determined to be compatible," says an Alliance motion. It asks a federal judge to dismiss the Fund for Animals/Humane Society lawsuit.

Koch said specific rules are followed by each refuge's management when it comes to allowing hunting. "There is a set process for opening areas to hunting that might include an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement," he said. "Each specific refuge has a purpose, and it has goals and objectives on how it's going to achieve those goals. Hunting could enter into it, as it does here at Great Swamp, where deer hunting is a management tool."

Forcing each refuge to write an EIS might not satisfy the Humane Society's desire to ban hunting on wildlife refuges. Since hunting is widely considered the most effective way of controlling deer, the environmental impact of banning hunting could be terrible.

He said Great Swamp's main purpose is to provide habitat for migrating waterfowl. Because of that waterfowl hunting isn't allowed. "This isn't a large refuge," said Koch. "If we put waterfowl hunters out there, these birds wouldn't have much resting and feeding. A few would be harvested by hunters, but the rest would be chased out."

Hungry, overpopulated deer herds are another story. "Exotic, invasive species of plants tend to take over where deer eliminate the natural understory (of plants)," said Koch. "That's a very undesirable situation. It sets the stage for the invasive plants to move in and take over."

Nevertheless, the Humane Society refers to such habitat-centered arguments for deer hunting as "plausible, but not necessarily true." So bring on the deer deforestation, because -- even if the observations of guys like Koch are valid -- the Society still insists hunting "is fundamentally at odds with the values of a humane, just and caring society."

Monday, May 01, 2006

WEST VIRGINIA NEWS: Four more cases of CWD

Preliminary testing has detected the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) agent in four more free-ranging white-tailed deer recently collected in Hampshire County as part of an ongoing and intensive CWD surveillance effort, it was announced by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR). This brings the total of CWD-positive deer found in Hampshire County since last fall to nine. These most recent samples were collected in March and April by DNR's deer collection teams working in Hampshire County. The CWD laboratory testing was conducted by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, which is located at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, Georgia.

When CWD was first confirmed last September in Hampshire County, DNR immediately implemented its CWD - Incident Response Plan. As part of that plan, DNR has been engaged in intensive CWD surveillance efforts designed to determine the distribution and prevalence of the disease. From September 2005 through April 2006, a total of 1,317 Hampshire County deer was tested for CWD. These samples consisted of 1,016 hunter-harvested deer taken during the 2005 fall hunting season, 216 deer collected by DNR in the fall of 2005, and 85 additional deer most recently collected by DNR in 2006. CWD was not detected in any of the hunter-harvested deer collected last fall. Four of the 216 deer collected by DNR in the fall of 2005 were confirmed to have the CWD agent, and now, preliminary tests indicate that 4 of the 85 deer collected by DNR in 2006 have the CWD agent. The disease has now been detected in a total of 9 deer in Hampshire County (i.e., 1 road-killed deer, 4 deer collected by the DNR in 2005 and 4 deer collected by the DNR in 2006).

"Analysis of this initial CWD surveillance data indicates the disease appears to be found in a relatively small geographical area located near Slanesville, West Virginia," noted DNR Director Frank Jezioro. "From a wildlife disease management perspective, we consider this to be encouraging news. Based upon these CWD surveillance findings, we are taking the steps necessary to implement appropriate management actions designed to control the spread of this disease, prevent further introduction of the disease, and possibly eliminate the disease from the state," Jezioro said.

The following disease management options are being evaluated by the DNR for use within the affected area of Hampshire County:

* Lower deer population levels to reduce the risk of spreading the disease from deer to deer by implementing appropriate antlerless deer hunting regulations designed to increase hunter opportunity to harvest female deer;

* Establish reasonable, responsible and appropriate deer carcass transport restrictions designed to lower the risk of moving the disease to other locations;

* Establish reasonable, responsible and appropriate regulations relating to the feeding and baiting of deer within the affected area to reduce the risk of spreading the disease from deer to deer.

"Landowner cooperation throughout this entire CWD surveillance effort in Hampshire County has been just terrific," Jezioro noted. "As we strive to meet this wildlife disease challenge and implement appropriate management strategies, the support and involvement of landowners and hunters will continue to be essential. DNR remains committed to keeping the public informed and involved in these wildlife disease management actions."

CWD is a neurological disease found in deer and elk, and it belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

CWD was first recognized in 1967 in Colorado, and it subsequently has been found in captive deer and elk herds in nine states and two Canadian provinces and in free-ranging deer and elk in 11 states and two provinces. In 2005 the disease was found as far east as New York and West Virginia.

More information on CWD can be found at the DNR's Web site: and the CWD Alliance website: