Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Deer Reduction Continues at Gettysburg

The National Park Service will pursue a less vigorous deer hunt this year at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site than in previous years, thanks to what it says is the success of the program.

Last year's deer survey showed that the Park Service achieved its goal of reducing the herd's density to 25 deer per square mile, said park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon.

Lawhon said the Park Service, biologists, and the state concluded in 1995 - when the deer survey estimated that the park had 333 deer per square mile - that the park's landscape could support 25 deer per square mile.

But the deer have no natural predators on or near park land, and their numbers would grow without management, Lawhon said.

She said the Park Service aims to shoot 115 deer between October and March, down from 200 in 2004, when the park had 31 deer per square mile.

Those goals decreased with the deer's density. The park estimated 26 deer per square mile in 2005, Lawhon said.

Lawhon estimated that this year's program would cost about $5,948, excluding man hours, which is what it cost last year.

Lawhon said thinning the herd benefits the park.

"The intense browsing by deer was threatening the future of the wood lots because there were very few younger trees that managed to live or thrive," Lawhon said.

Lawhon said the deer also threatened the Park Service's agricultural program, where local farmers maintain farm fields that are part of the park.

"We found that there was so much damage to the crops that it was becoming less and less worthwhile for the farmer to lease the field," Lawhon said.

Lawhon said without local farmers cultivating the fields, the park would lose its 1863 agricultural appearance and make it harder for visitors to understand the landscape.

The Park Service also had a high number of car accidents involving deer when the animals roamed the park in large numbers, Lawhon said.

Lawhon said park employees shoot only antlerless deer to leave those with antlers for hunters on nearby land.

She stressed that this is not a public hunting opportunity. Only qualified federal employees are allowed to shoot deer on national park land in the herd-reducing effort.

The Park Service pays to have the deer butchered, and donates the meat to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg, Lawhon said.

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Unified Sportsmen of PA Sues Game Commission (Again)

For the second time in two years, the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit it hopes will derail the Game Commission's controversial deer-management plan and allow the state's whitetail population to expand.

Unified's suit, filed Sept. 7 at Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, says the commission used inadequate scientific data in determining the number of licenses available to hunt antlerless deer. Unified also is asking the court to issue an injunction that would halt all antlerless deer hunting on State Game Lands and State Forests until the commission gathers additional data on deer populations and reproductive success.

''The commission readily acknowledges they do not know how many deer exist in Pennsylvania and have resorted to subjective and ambiguous evaluations to determine deer densities rather than sound, scientific and numerical data,'' Unified Chairman Gregory Levengood of Boyertown said in a news release. ''Such unconventional and careless decision making has resulted in a dramatic, and quite possibly an unsustainable, decline of our public land deer herd.''

Commission officials dismissed Unified's suit as baseless and harmful to sportsmen.

''Unified once again is attempting to waste the Game Commission's limited resources on frivolous lawsuits that have no merit,'' Joseph J. Neville, director of the agency's Bureau of Information and Education, said in a prepared statement.

''Such a lawsuit, filed at this late date, only serves to create confusion for hunters looking forward to hunting seasons. This lawsuit also will result in a diversion of money and staff time that could be better spent managing the state's wildlife resources.''

Unified attorney Charles B. Haws of Reading said the commission has until Oct. 10 to file its initial response with the court. No hearings have been scheduled, and despite Unified's request for an injunction to block doe hunting on public land, Haws said it is unlikely the suit will have any short-term impact on deer-hunting activity.

''There would have to be a hearing regarding the merits of our complaint before the court could issue an injunction,'' Haws said. ''That could take a year. It could take less. It could take more. It depends on how vigorous the debate is between the parties.''

The lawsuit signals the start of a new round in an ongoing battle between the commission and Unified, a statewide hunting organization that says it represents more than 30,000 members.

In recent years, Unified has been the most vocal critic of the commission's deer program, and Unified filed a similar lawsuit against the agency in 2005. Although the legal arguments in that were eventually rejected by a judge, the court ruled that Unified and other sportsmen's groups have legal standing to challenge commission policies.

Commission biologists say the deer-management program is designed to balance white-tail populations with available habitat to limit the damage caused by deer eating small trees, agricultural crops and landscaping. Officials say their goals are to produce healthy deer and healthy habitat while also reducing the number of deer-human conflicts.

But in its lawsuit, Unified alleges the management program relies too much on ''qualitative'' data such as the results of forest regeneration surveys and not enough on ''quantitative'' data such as deer densities and reproductive success.

Therefore, Unified says, the agency does not have sufficient data to make credible deer-management decisions, and as such, there is no legitimate basis for the agency's decision to allocate 865,000 general antlerless licenses for the 2007-08 hunting season, plus an additional 19,136 licenses provided to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources specifically for State Parks and State Forests under the Deer Management Assistance Program.

The suit alleges that because the commission doesn't have enough data, the agency has abused its discretion in making arbitrary antlerless license decisions and violated its legally mandated duty to promote Pennsylvania's hunting heritage.

''By improperly authorizing the killing of too many antlerless deer, [the commission] has improperly reduced the Pennsylvania deer herd below its natural and appropriate population and, as a result, [the commission] has failed to provide an adequate opportunity for the members of USP to hunt deer,'' the suit states.

Unified is asking the court to halt all antlerless deer hunting on State Game Lands and State Forests and order the commission to gather comprehensive, statewide data on deer reproduction and deer population densities.

Haws said Unified is not seeking to halt antlerless deer hunting on private land because the group supports landowner rights and also believes most property owners do a good job of balancing deer numbers.

''If the [commission] would manage public land deer as well as private landowners manage the deer on their land, we wouldn't have any problems,'' Levengood wrote in an e-mail about the suit.

There are about 950,000 hunters in Pennsylvania, according to the commission's 2006 license sales data.

Source: http://www.mcall.com/sports/outdoors/all-lawsuit0918.6039654sep18,0,5586678.story

Monday, September 17, 2007

NEW JERSEY NEWS: State Cost-Sharing Deer Fence Construction for Farmers

ANDOVER — It is the eternal farmer question: How much can I afford to let the wildlife eat?

A few years ago, John Elwood decided the deer in his neighborhood had eaten enough.

Elwood, who owns Good Hand Farm on Brighton Road, applied to the state and got grant money to help him install a deer fence. Since then, he said the deer have been on a rigid diet, no more of his organic garden.

The state Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the 2007 deer fence program. If accepted, farmers can get fencing material and up to 30 percent of the cost of line posts needed for installation.

Deadline for applications is Oct. 7 and forms are available from local extension and soil conservation district offices. Further information is available through the Agriculture Department Web site, www.state.nj.us/agriculture/news and click on "news releases" in the left column.

Unlike most fencing, which is about three to four feet high and meant to keep livestock in, wildlife fencing comes in rolls up to eight feet tall and is woven, with smaller spaces near the bottom, meant to keep out small wildlife, such as rabbits, woodchucks and skunks. In most installations, the woven wire is topped by two or three single strands of wire to keep out deer, which can leap more than eight feet high.

The fencing program was developed at Rutgers Cooperative Extension and is cosponsored by the Agriculture Department. This will be the third time the program will be offered and first year it will have a new/beginning farmer category.

In the first two years, about 150 farmers across the state received help with the fence.

According to Rutgers scientists, about 70 percent of crop loss in the state can be blamed on deer with a dollar loss estimated at between $5 million and $10 million each year.

Among the eligibility requirements are that a farmer must document a minimum of $40,000 in agricultural sales or $20,000 in sales of organic products ($5,000 for new/beginner farmer); have not participated in the previous fence program; be the owner of the land or have documented proof of renting preserved farmland; and attend a mandatory fence workshop.

If properly installed, a deer fence will last up to 30 years and the cost can be amortized on the farmer's tax returns.

Elwood chose to enclose about 10 acres of his farm, which sits smack in the middle of excellent deer country. That plot contains the organic garden where he grows produce for sale. "You can't afford to enclose too much of an area," he said. "For some crops, such as hay and corn, you just have to accept that the deer will eat some."

That decision, he said, is an economic one. Some crops, such as hay, have a lower return per acre while an organic garden has a much higher return. Unfenced at his farm is a 10-acre pasture for horses and a 22-acre hay field.

Elwood said a neighbor, Bob Cahill, also has a deer fence for protection, but his crop is the wide variety of plants he grows for his landscaping business.

"The system is entirely effective," he said, then laughed, "except when the owner gets stupid and leaves the gate open."

Source: http://www.njherald.com/362084244931398.php

NEW ZEALAND NEWS: 200 Fallow Deer Illegally Released

Forest and Bird are concerned about irresponsible behaviour by what they call an extremist element in the hunting community. Spokesman Kevin Hackwell says 200 fallow deer were recently trucked to Taranaki and illegally released, risking the spread of bovine TB on farms in the area.

He says the release of the deer could have a devastating effect on native forest in the nearby Wanganui National Park. Groups of hunters have also recently threatened to kill kiwi in the Tongariro Forest, and planted 1080 poison in public parks near Wellington, killing a pet dog.

Kevin Hackwell says these incidents show a minority of hunters are prepared to put their own interests before all else. He says everyday hunters would likely be appalled by their actions.

Source: http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/newsdetail1.asp?storyID=124348

MISSOURI NEWS: More Deer in the Burbs

TOWN AND COUNTRY — As if on cue, the little white-speckled deer crept across a nearby lawn.

Don Meyer stood in his garden next to the hostas that had been nibbled to the ground. He peered through a chicken-wire fence searching for others in the battalion of Bambis that had feasted on his lilies and impatiens.

He knew they were out there.

"That's the fawn," he said, lowering his voice. "There should be two more."

It seemed an idyllic scene, one that has drawn people for years to this pastoral city of 10,894 residents — the towering oak trees, the rustle of squirrels scurrying across dead leaves, the early evening sun hitting the fawn's reddish coat.

But many residents, including Meyer, have a hard time mustering fondness for any deer, a graceful symbol of all that is good in pastoral suburbia. With the deer population surging, the animals are destroying prized gardens and flower beds and darting in front of SUVs.

Apparently, they can't take a hint, either.

Meyer has thrown yard tools at the deer, yelled at them, honked his car horn, anything to scare them off. But they just keep coming.

"They're too used to humans," Meyer said. "If I hear my wife blowing her horn in the morning, it means she can't get up the driveway because there's a deer."

Recently, some residents have urged city leaders to do something, such as allowing bow hunters to set up shop in backyards. Others want the animals netted and slaughtered.

The Missouri Department of Conservation recommends a deer population no higher than 25 per square mile. According to a 2004 head count, Town and Country had 68 deer per square mile.

Since then, the number of deer has likely grown significantly, said Tom Meister, a wildlife damage biologist with the Department of Conservation.

"The only population control is the automobile," he said.

The large residential lots in Town and Country offer deer more food sources and places to hide, Meister said. He also believes that a spring frost earlier this year may have killed vegetation, pushing deer to find food in people's yards.

In a region where new subdivisions continue to encroach on wildlife habitat, Meister has seen it all — the geese that invade playgrounds and ruin recess for schoolchildren, coyotes that snatch pets and beavers that dam up creeks.

"I've got a meeting with the city of Union about a muskrat problem," he said last week.

Controlling wildlife in an urban setting is often a series of experiments. Town and Country already tried once to control its deer population.

From 1999 to 2001, the city trapped and relocated 233 deer at a cost of roughly $360 per deer. The program was seen as a humane way to remove the deer. But a study of the first year of the program found that 20 percent had died from the stress of being captured.

The Department of Conservation ended the program over concerns about spreading disease.

Meanwhile, some Town and Country residents look enviously at cities such as Clarkson Valley, Chesterfield and Wildwood that allow controlled hunting. During the past four years, bow hunters have claimed more than 200 deer in Clarkson Valley, a city of 2,675 residents.

"We think it's worked," said Mayor Scott Douglas, noting that residents are reporting fewer problems.

But Meister says it's too early to say how effective urban hunting programs have been. Before hunting began, Clarkson Valley had a deer population of about 85 per square mile. The Department of Conservation has yet to conduct another deer count.

Not everyone in Town and Country agrees the deer are a problem.

"I think we are equally divided on the issue," said Bruni Perez, a member of the Town and Country Conservation Commission. "The deer come and go through my property, and I've been able to make it work. We co-exist peacefully."

If residents have problems with deer eating their vegetation, they should consider replacing it with plants the deer dislike, such as daffodils and peonies, Perez said.

Bill Kuehling, an alderman and chairman of the city's Conservation Commission, doesn't believe hunting is the answer.

"Who would we allow to hunt and how would that be decided?" he said. "I don't think the city is going to be in the business of giving hunting tests."

Instead he supports the city running a captive bolting program. That's where the deer are captured in traps and killed with a device that shoots a bolt into their brains, just like at a slaughterhouse.

It has been done in Town and Country before.

Joseph Williamson, a retired doctor, received a permit from the Department of Conservation a few years ago to trap and bolt deer in his yard.

"We had tried every repellent," he said. "The main reason we wanted to move (here) was to garden. … They were eating everything."

Over a three-year period, Williamson trapped and killed 23 deer, which reduced the amount of damage. But after that, the trap failed to net a deer for two straight years, and Williamson didn't renew his permit.

Now he has an electric fence surrounding his yard, but the deer still sneak in. This year, three does gave birth in his yard. "That's just on one acre," he said.

Four weeks ago, Meyer put up a chicken wire fence around his home, but wishes he could do more to protect what's left of his plants.

"If I had a .30-30 (rifle) and was allowed to shoot here," he said, "I wouldn't have any deer."