Tuesday, September 23, 2008

SASKATCHEWAN NEWS: Increased Hunting Requested in Saskatoon Area

Deep snow and extended cold temperatures have decimated white-tailed deer populations in northern Saskatchewan in recent years, but provincial Environment Ministry officials want hunters to kill about 500 extra does and fawns in the Saskatoon area this fall to reduce high numbers of mule deer and white-tails around the city.

"We're putting out as many tags as possible in the area, hoping that anyone who can get permission to hunt will harvest more than one antlerless animal to help us with population control," wildlife manager Shawn Burke said Monday.

Antlerless deer are adult females or young animals born this spring - the type preferred by venison-lovers but ignored by trophy-seekers.

The ministry is selling 500 additional big game management licences for antlerless mule deer and white-tailed deer - valid only in the Saskatoon region - through its office on Research Drive. Hunters can buy two licences at a time, for $19.62 each.
To track the program's success, hunters will be asked to turn in any unused licences as well as the heads of harvested animals to the Saskatoon field office by Jan. 1.

Adult deer heads will be tested for chronic wasting disease, at no charge.
Saskatchewan is known world-wide among hunters as a good place to bag trophy-sized white-tailed deer. Outfitters charge up to $13,000 per customer for a week of hunting the biggest bucks from lodges and heated blinds scattered around the northern half of the province.

The size of the herd hit a high point in the winter of 2004-05, followed by a small winter kill the following winter and "a very large one last year," Burke said.
By the third week of November 2007, snow depths in the northeastern part of the province were "already at the point where deer would die over the winter," he said.

As the cold season progressed, "we had a series of large snowfall events that increased (snow depth) to the point where the deer couldn't move around, so they couldn't travel to get food and the energy they were expending to get what food they could find was way more than the value of the food they were bringing in," he said.

"It took the deer herd in the North 25 years to get to the point it was at, through a series of mild winters and early springs. So Mother Nature has created the right conditions to take the deer herd back to where it was 25 years ago across the North - but those conditions didn't exist in the southern part of the province."

Using the Yellowhead Highway as a rough dividing line, the south had "some localized rough spots" for deer in recent years - including places where farmers have cut down pockets of sheltering trees to maximize grain production while prices are high - "but nothing to really affect them from a population standpoint," Burke said.

"In the urban zones around Saskatoon and Regina you've got a combination of factors. You've got a whole bunch of small acreages and lots of landscaped trees and shrubs that people like, which creates high-value food sources - and there's no hunting pressure."

It's typically harder for hunters to get permission from multiple small, adjacent landowners to shoot deer on their properties, and the animals have figured this out, Burke said.

"Deer aren't stupid. If they're pressured in other areas, they'll move to areas where there's no pressure. So you get deer moving in, they're protected and they can get through the winter because people shovel their driveways and walks and things. So they can move from high-value food source to high-value food source, and your numbers go up."

Meanwhile, surveys conducted in a portion of Wildlife Management Zone 50, north of Prince Albert, showed a staggering 76 per cent drop in deer population density from 2007 to 2008, according to a June 2008 report by Environment Ministry officials.
"Ministry of Environment wildlife managers have reacted to this widespread population decline by making significant changes to while-tailed deer seasons," the report noted.
"Both the Saskatchewan resident second either-sex licence and the Saskatchewan resident anterless licence have been removed across the forest and forest fringe zones."

Source: Canada.com

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