Tuesday, December 16, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Community Contemplates Future of Large Deer Population

A wildlife expert said Monday the deer population in Grand Haven should be reduced, despite a recent survey that showed a lower-than-expected number of deer living in the city.

Sara Schaefer, a wildlife specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said nuisance complaints and ecological destruction should take center stage in herd reduction talks -- not a population count.

"It's not the number of deer you have, it's the effect they are having on citizens in an urban situation," Schaefer told the Chronicle in a telephone interview Monday.

Schaefer was to deliver a presentation to the city council during a work session Monday night. No action was scheduled.

"I recommend that they do some deer reduction, yes. But it's up to city officials," she said.

Schaefer, a wildlife supervisor for southwest Michigan, says she believes hiring a sharpshooter to thin the herd would help residents, the ecology and the deer.

She said resident complaints are up while deer activity is cutting away grass that protects dunes against erosion. Meanwhile, deer are the No. 1 culprit said to be destroying the protected wild Trillium flower.

Schaefer said a recent helicopter flyover which found 54 deer in Grand Haven -- fewer than officials had anticipated -- is not an accurate method to get a fix on deer population.

Schaefer said the Dec. 3 study should not be the determining factor in the deer culling debate.

"Flyovers do not give you reliable data," she said.

Meanwhile, critics say there was not sufficient snow cover during the flyover, which could have made it harder to see deer with less contrast. Heat-sensing cameras were used in the two-hour flyover that covered the entire city.

More than 118 nuisance deer complaints, ranging from destruction of property, deer droppings on an elementary school's sidewalk and the animals entering residential decks, have been filed at City Hall since Jan. 1.

That's up from 54 complaints the previous year.

Meanwhile, opponents of a deer cull point to city records that show car-deer accidents are down this year -- five compared to 11 in 2007.

But Schaefer said that statistic can be misleading, not taking into account "near misses" that are not reported or recorded.

The flyover, which used a Michigan State Police helicopter, found the most populated areas near Mulligan's Hollow, Lake Forest Cemetery, Duncan Woods, Stickney Ridge and the area bordered by Marion Avenue, Eaton Drive, Beechtree Street and Moreland Avenue.

Schaefer said she recommends a deer cull in January. The city already has taken bids from certified sharpshooting firms, but has not authorized the herd reduction.

"Sharpshooting is safe and efficient for citizens," Schaefer said.

Source: MLive

OREGON NEWS: Dead Deer in Backyards

State wildlife biologists are mystified over the deaths of at least a dozen seemingly healthy black-tailed deer in back yards in Ashland.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Niemela said field tests on two deer revealed they did not die from ruminitis, a disease that kills deer fed corn by residents.

"They had lots of fat and looked like healthy animals, but were dead," Niemela said.

Organ tissue samples are being tested.

One showed possible signs of the adenovirus, a contagious disease that earlier this decade wiped out deer around Ashland, Jacksonville and other areas where the animals had reached unnatural concentrations because some people were feeding them.

Until lab tests are done, Niemela said, it was premature to conclude the adenovirus has resurfaced.

Source: OregonLive.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Deer Cull Approved for Rochester Hills

With approval given by the Rochester Hills City Council Monday night, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office snipers will be used to thin the deer population throughout the city.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the controversial measure for the service, which will be provided by the sheriff’s office for free to the city and will allow up to 200 deer to be culled initially. It’s estimated that there are at least 1,000 deer in the city.

Councilmen Jim Rosen and Ravi Yalamanchi voted against the issue, which would not allow culling on private or commercial properties.

Residents on both sides of the issue spoke out, with opponents expressing concern about the danger of having sharp shooters in the city.

“I don’t want our city to become a target practice range,” said Agnes Domanska, 32, of Rochester Hills. “I do realize the sharp shooters are skilled, but accidents can happen to the best of us.”

The council plans to review the results of this winter’s culling in June 2009 to determine its effectiveness. It’s unclear whether the sheriff’s office would continue to provide the service for free each year.

Lance DeVoe, the city’s naturalist, said culling is more effective when it’s done over multiple years.

Along with the culling, the council also approved seeking grants to improve signage, add reflectors or fencing to roadways and continuing to educate residents about the deer population. As well, the meat from the deer killed will be processed free of charge by Safari Club International and the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger and donated to local food banks, DeVoe said.

The council also enacted a feeding ban in September.

Rochester Hills resident Jean Teschendorf, who has deer passing through her yard every day, is in favor of culling the deer. She said she’s concerned that deer can carry Lyme disease or that a buck could charge through the back windows of her home.

“I have more fear of the deer than anything else,” Teschendorf said.

For months, the council has considered several ways to control the deer, which caused 219 car wrecks last year, according to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

“I’m very fearful that there are going to be continuation of accidents and more problems,” said Councilman Vern Pixley. “My feeling is, and the research that I’ve done is, if there are fewer deer, there will be fewer accidents.”

DeVoe said the city is also mailing out informational pamphlets about the deer and is looking to improve signage alerting drivers to high-population deer areas.

He also said putting reflectors on roadways could cost up to $14,300 for a half-mile area or $28,600 for a mile.

DeVoe said taking a multifaceted approach to the deer population problem is more effective.

“Deer are wild animals,” he said. “They’re not supposed to be eating out of our hand and getting names and recognizing every member of the family. They should be in the woods, behaving as wild animals are supposed to behave.”

Source: Detroit Free Press

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

MINNESOTA NEWS: Cougars Join Deer Hunt This Season

CULVER, MINN. -- Two deer hunters waited a few minutes to track a doe they shot northwest of Duluth -- only to find two hungry cougars tearing away at their kill.

It took Ted Kline and Ron Smith only about 30 minutes to reach their doe on Monday. In that time, Kline estimates the cougars ate about a third of the usable meat.

"When we got there, they had both been eating on it. We scared them off, but they kept circling us. They didn't want to leave," said Kline, who owns the land where the two were hunting along the Artichoke River, about 25 miles northwest of Duluth.

The hunters called for help so two men could drag out the deer while Kline kept his hands on his rifle. "The chunks they tore off that doe were huge. The claw marks were huge," he said.

Photos of the carcass show that the deer's neck, rear leg and abdomen were mauled. Kline said it appeared the cats attacked the deer before it died.

Kline says the animals had long tails and were 3 feet long. He says they weren't wolves, dogs or bobcats.

Kline and Smith reported their story to a conservation officer from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"We probably get 200 cougar reports each year ... but most turn out to be bobcats or house cats or yellow dogs," said John Erb, DNR forest wildlife biologist in Grand Rapids. "We do get confirmation on occasion. We had two confirmed last year, including one near Floodwood, but they are very, very rare. And for there to be two cougars together in one spot, that would be the first time in Minnesota probably in 75 years."

While cougar sightings are somewhat common in the area, it's unclear whether the animals are former pets or part of a small population of wild cougars. The closest established population of cougars is in the western Dakotas.

The large cats are protected in Minnesota and can't be shot, although law enforcement officers can put down an animal if they determine it may be a threat to people.

Source: Star Tribune

Monday, November 10, 2008

INDIANA NEWS: Some State Parks to Close for Deer Hunt

Seventeen Indiana state parks will be closed for a pair of Monday-Tuesday periods while hunters reduce the deer population.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says the parks will close Nov. 17-18 and Dec. 1-2.

The hunters invited to the parks were selected in September from a pool of applicants.

DNR biologists say reducing the deer herd in the parks helps protect endangered plants.

The parks that will be closed are Brown County, Chain O'Lakes, Charlestown, Harmonie, Indiana Dunes, Lincoln, McCormick's Creek, Ouabache (WAH'-bash), Pokagon (poh-KAY'-gun), Shades, Spring Mill, Summit Lake, Tippecanoe River, Turkey Run, Whitewater Memorial, Fort Harrison and Clifty Falls.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Thursday, November 06, 2008

HEALTH NEWS: Blood Lead Levels Linked to Wild Game

The article makes recommendations for children under 6. I would extend that to children under 9, recognizing that kids between the ages of 2-6 are most vulnerable. This is a good argument for lead bullet substitutes.

People who eat wild game killed with lead bullets tend to have higher levels of lead in their blood than people who don't, according to a first-of-its-kind study of 738 North Dakotans.

"People who ate a lot of wild game tended to have higher lead levels than those who ate little or none," Dr. Stephen Pickard, epidemiologist for the North Dakota Department of Health, said Wednesday.

The study also showed that the more recent the consumption of wild game killed with lead bullets, the higher the level of lead in the blood.

The blood lead levels of those tested were considered low, but even low levels can have adverse health effects, especially for children and pregnant women.

Officials recommended that pregnant women and children under 6 not eat any venison from deer killed with lead bullets -- the same recommendation made last month by the Minnesota Health Department.

"Children under 6 are particularly vulnerable because their brains are still developing," Pickard said. "It causes permanent brain damage even in very small quantities. There is no safe exposure level for small children. We see children with permanent lower intelligence and changes in behavior."

Lead can increase the risk that a pregnant woman could lose her baby or deliver it prematurely, Pickard said. In adults, lead can cause high blood pressure, hearing loss and infertility, though usually with higher lead levels.

The study, done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Dakota Department of Health, appears to add to the evidence that using lead bullets can pose potential health problems for hunters and their families. A Minnesota study last summer showed lead bullets fired from high-powered rifles scatter lead fragments -- many too small to see or feel -- up to 18 inches from the wound.

Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MAINE NEWS: Low Deer Harvest Expected

Over the years, I have heard firsthand disparaging comments from the disgruntled deer hunter camp, accusing state wildlife mangers of not knowing how many deer are in the woods. Here, the Maine DIFW has put forth a very specific prediction about harvest numbers for the forthcoming season. I'll wager that the projected figure (24,000) is within 10% of the actual harvest, largely because the DIFW DOES know the size of the population they are managing. Check back next spring--time will tell.

State wildlife officials say the harvest from next month's deer season is projected to be the smallest in more than two decades because of the heavy toll of last winter's harsh conditions on the deer herd.

Hunters are expected to kill about 24,000 deer during the season, which begins Saturday for residents and Monday for nonresidents.

Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte said that would be the lowest number since 1987.

Hunters last year harvested 28,884 deer, which is in line with Maine's 20-year average.

Source: WCSH6

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Anger Over Deer Baiting Ban

FRANKENMUTH - Farmers say the state is stealing their livelihoods with a deer-baiting ban to battle a killer disease.

Hunters are up in arms complaining that the state is adding unfair rules for pursuing their game.

More than 70 hunters and farmers gathered in Frankenmuth during a heated presentation Monday from state officials on chronic wasting disease.

Economists estimate that deer bait sales bring in $50 million annually in the state.

Department of Natural Resources officials presented information on the disease and how to prevent its spread during the two-hour meeting at the Wallace and Irene Bronner and Family Performing Arts Center.

An hour-long question-and-answer session aimed heated dialogue from audience members toward the four-person panel.

"You're taking away people's livelihoods," said Roy E. Stolz, a 51-year-old Saginaw County resident. "You're killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer."

Stolz said he raises 25 to 30 acres of sugar beets for deer bait and stands to lose around $25,000 because of the permanent ban.

"They really have no sound scientific evidence," he said.

Stolz said takes umbrage with the ban's timing.

"They could have told us in the spring," he said. "The way they took it away ... it's a little unsettling with me."

Scientists first confirmed the disease Aug. 25, when a 3-year-old doe at a privately operated cervid facility in Kent County tested positive. The state killed the doe and 50 other deer at the facility.

Chronic wasting disease is fatal in white-tail deer, elk, moose and mule deer and spreads through contaminated food, water, feces and saliva.

"There is no cure," said Michael E. Bailey, wildlife management supervisor for the DNR. "It's a death sentence once they get it."

It does not cross to humans.

The DNR implemented a response plan, drawn up in 2002 after a deer in Wisconsin tested positive for the disease, following the state's first, and only, positive test.

Steps include a deer bait ban, quarantine on all private facilities, prohibiting deer rehabilitation and widespread testing.

A surveillance zone also is in place around Kent County. Officials will test 300 deer in Kent County, nine townships in Kent County, and the seven counties surrounding Kent County. In the remainder of the Lower Peninsula, scientists will test 50 deer in each county.

"From that sampling, we should be able to determine with some certainty if the disease has spread," Bailey said. The state's game and fish protection fund provide testing, which costs around $50 a deer. General fund money will supplement the cost.

The DNR ordered the baiting ban to extend for six months starting in August and extended it indefinitely on Oct. 9 after an Ingham County judge upheld the DNR's authority to make the decision.

"We all knew what the outcome would be," said Kevin Kirk, special assistant to the state veterinarian, of people's complaints about the ban. "We are trying to find some avenues for your product."

William R. Adams, a hunter for 52 years, agrees with the ban and preventative measures the state has taken.

"They should have never accelerated it like they did," the 68-year-old Birch Run resident said of baiting. "I've seen people with pick-up loads of apples dump them in a hunting area. I think it's something that needs to be addressed."

Cass City resident Garry F. Gamet said he can understand the anger from farmers who are losing money from deer bait sales.

He does, however, disagree with using bait as a hunting technique.

"Shooting deer in a bait pile is like going to the zoo and shooting animals," he said.

Gamet said a power point slide Monday evening, showing a precipitous dip in the deer population during the next 50 years if the disease is not brought under control, impressed him.

"If we allow baiting, and it (wasting disease) gets into our wild herd, our kids and grandkids will suffer for it," Gamet said.

Source: MI Live

AUSTRALIA NEWS: Feral Deer Multiplying in Brisbane Area

Feral deer are being targeted by Brisbane City Council literally.

Four deer have been shot by Brisbane City Council officers in the past two months in response to complaints, with council abandoning the use of deer trapping in bushland or large land tracts.

It was revealed early this month council would hire a second animal control officer amid rapidly multiplying numbers of feral deer, which have caused problems on western suburb roads.

In April, police responded to calls from startled families in Seven Hills, Norman Park and Camp Hill about a stag wandering their streets.

After attempts to capture the animal failed, it was left to find its own way back to
Carina’s Minnippi Parklands, where a herd of up to 30 deer are known to roam.

While initially being told by council its primary response was to trap the animals, a spokesman for Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has revealed it will only continue use of traps when close to homes.

He said shooting would be the preferred option on large tracts of land where necessary as the deer were often harming themselves as they thrashed about inside the cages trying to escape.

But the spokesman denied reports a larger cull was being considered.

Councillor Newman would not be drawn except to say it was a major problem.

``It is not something that can be swept under the carpet anymore, it must be dealt with,’’ he said.

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty preferred the deer were humanely euthanised and not unnecessarily shot, but conceded finding a sanctuary or farm willing to take them in was difficult.

``It will get 10 times worse in another three years,’’ Mr Beatty said, of the feral deer problem.

Source: Wynnum Herald

Monday, October 27, 2008

RESEARCH NEWS: Deer Elevate Local Animal Diversity

Katherine Greenwald and colleagues recently published a paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management (2008: 72:1318-1321) that reports higher levels of animal diversity in areas with deer relative to deer exclusion plots. The experiment was conducted in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in NE Ohio. Deer exclosures were built in 1999, and were 10 x 10 m in size. The study of animal diversity was conducted in 2004 and 2005.

Key findings included:

1. Red-backed salamanders were about three times more abundant in deer plots.
2. Snakes were about five times more abundant in deer plots.
3. Gastropods (i.e. snails and slugs) were about 10% higher in deer plots.

To date, there have been relatively few studies conducted on relationships between deer browsing and animals, and as such this represents an important contribution. However, the results are somewhat surprising. All previous work (just 3 studies to my knowledge) has revealed negative relationships between gastropods and deer browsing. This is a counterintuitive result.

Conversely, the findings involving browsing and snakes makes sense. Snakes are ectotherms and would benefit from more open conditions, presumably.

I am surprised by the strong response of salamanders to deer. I would have expected a weaker response, and I would have expected a negative relationship between salamanders and deer.

This study reported some interesting patterns, but I do not know how generalizable they are. I hope there is some follow-up research forthcoming.

Monday, October 20, 2008

UTAH NEWS: Whitetails Extending Range into Utah

TJ Gale, like all hunters, was excited to get a good look at his buck. It was October 2004 and the then-19-year-old had just shot a deer close to his home in Morgan.

Gale's deer wasn't a trophy, but he still ended up with bragging rights. While the rack wasn't worth hanging on the wall, Gale's buck quickly became a hot topic in the hunting and wildlife communities.

"I thought it looked a little funny at first and then I knew it was different because it had a white tail that was like a foot and half long," Gale said last week. "I told my brother it was a whitetail deer and he didn't believe me until we took it to the wildlife offices."

Gale had become one of the small, but growing, number of hunters, to kill a white-tailed deer in Utah.

Most Utahns, including many big-game hunters, are unaware that there are now two species of deer that call the state home. The arrival of whitetail comes with mixed reactions. Some are excited to see a different species; others worry about the impact the pioneering whitetail could have on the Beehive State's beloved mule deer.

Named for their large mule-like ears, mule deer dominate Utah's mountain and desert landscapes, but the white-tailed deer has been creeping over the northern borders from Idaho and Wyoming and setting up home ranges. They have been spotted as far south as Bountiful and the Heber Valley.

Reports of whitetail in Utah have been around for decades, but the first documented sighting came in 1996 in Cache County. Although wildlife officials suspect some were killed by hunters earlier, the first recorded white-tailed deer was taken during the 2000 season.

As of Saturday afternoon, no whitetails had been shot on opening day of this year's deer season.

State wildlife officials considered the possibility of the whitetail influx back in 1996 and decided to make no effort to stop the immigrants. But the question arose whether or not it would be legal to shoot one in Utah. Because the state has a deer hunt and not a mule deer hunt, it is legal to take a whitetail.

The largest number of whitetail are found in the Cache Valley, but there is also a sizable population in Morgan County.

Anis Aoude, big-game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), estimates that there are now more than 1,000 whitetail in the state. That may seem like a large number, but not when compared to a mule deer population estimated at more than 300,000.

Still, wildlife managers and hunters are paying attention to the new arrivals.

"We need to carefully monitor the impact of whitetail in Utah and the West," said Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the nonprofit Mule Deer Foundation, headquartered in Salt Lake City.

As former director of the Utah DWR, Moretti is concerned the increasing number of whitetail may hamper efforts to restore struggling mule deer herds in the state.

"I do worry that the increasing number of whitetail in Utah may have to divert resources from mule deer recovery efforts for things like depredation," Moretti said.
"The mule deer is the symbol of the West and an animal that plays an important part of our pioneer heritage. The Mule Deer Foundation, and I hope the DWR, are not ready to give up on this historical species."

Whitetail deer were not introduced to the West by wildlife officials, but followed agricultural belts across the plains to reach the Rocky Mountains from the East.

The influx of whitetail is concerning on several fronts. Because they breed at an earlier age and are more likely to have multiple births than mule deer, the population can expand quickly.

Whitetail also tend to consume more crops, leading for depredation claims with farmers.

Mule deer and whitetail will breed, but the hybrid offsprings rarely survive the first year and are sterile, according to Dennis Austin, a retired state wildlife biologist living in the Cache Valley.

Austin has been tracking whitetail in Utah and, while the population has not grown as fast as he thought it may have, he is concerned that the numbers will eventually boom.

Back in the early 1970s Austin worked as a biologist for the Bureau of Land Management in central Montana and he doesn't remember seeing a white-tailed deer. He recently returned to the area and noticed that 50 percent of the deer were waving the familiar white flag - the large tail that whitetail raise during flight.

"They have taken over in places like Montana, but have been a little slower to expand here," Austin said. "That's good I guess, but we will have to wait and see."

For the time being, whitetail deer remain something many Utah hunters enjoy hearing about and consider themselves lucky to see.

"I've been at the checkpoints when whitetail come through," Aoude said. "Hunters that took them seem to be kind of tickled that they took something different."

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

Friday, October 17, 2008

NEW YORK NEWS: TB Found in Captive Deer

State officials say the health of wild deer and domestic animals could be threatened by the discovery of tuberculosis in a captive deer in Columbia County.

The Department of Agriculture and Markets says one animal in a captive herd of red and fallow deer tested positive for TB in routine testing and was euthanized.

The disease may affect nearly any organ in livestock and causes the animal to grow thin and weak.

The affected herd has been quarantined and animals on nearby farms will be tested to make sure the disease is isolated. In addition, the Department of Environmental Conservation plans to sample road-killed and hunter-killed deer for the disease. Hunters are advised to wear gloves while butchering deer.

The Health Department says strains of TB infecting deer can infect humans.

Source: Newsday

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SOUTH DAKOTA NEWS: Urban Cull Planned

Pierre officials say they will ask the state Game, Fish and Parks Department for a permit to kill 60 deer this winter.

Forty deer were shot last winter by police sharpshooters.

The city often gets complaints about deer tramping through yards and gardens in the capital city.

The marauding deer also are a problem for motorists.

Carcasses of deer that are killed by police will be made available to people who sign up on a first-come, first-served basis.

Source: KTIV


Two hunter-harvested buck mule deer in northeast Wyoming have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Chronic wasting disease is a brain disease that, once active, is thought to be 100 percent fatal in deer, elk and moose.

The two deer were both shot on Oct. 3, one northeast of Buffalo near Lake DeSmet in deer hunt area 26, and the other 7 1/2 miles east of Kaycee, in deer hunt area 29.

Personnel at the Game and Fish Department laboratory discovered the infected animals in the process of the department"s annual CWD survey.

"This is the first time we have found CWD in these two hunt areas," said Warren Mischke, spokesman for the Game and Fish Department's Sheridan Region.

The department recommends that deer hunters from areas 26 and 29 transport only the following items: cut and wrapped meat, boned meat, animal quarters or other pieces with no portion of the spinal column or head attached, hides without the head, cleaned skull plates with no meat or nervous tissue attached and antlers with no meat or other tissue attached.

The head, spine and other nervous tissue should be left at the site of the kill or disposed of in an approved landfill.

Rubber or latex gloves should be worn when field dressing any animal and during butchering, according to Mischke.

Chronic Wasting disease has been diagnosed in some wild deer, elk and moose in 11 states and two Canadian provinces, but there is no confirmed link between CWD and any human illness.

Nonetheless, to avoid any risk, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people not consume parts or products from any animal that looks sick or tests positive for CWD.

The disease was first discovered in free-ranging elk in Wyoming in 1986, white-tailed deer in 1990 and mule deer in 1992, all in the southeast corner of the state, said Hank Edwards, wildlife disease biologist with the Game and Fish Department.

Although the disease's progress through the state is slow, it also appears to be steady, he said.

"It's definitely moving both north and west from the historical endemic area," Edwards said.

Many conservationists fear that if the disease ever reaches the elk feedgrounds in western Wyoming, it will decimate the elk herds there in much the same way the disease has caused catastrophic kills of elk raised on elk farms.

Officials with the Game and Fish Department say it's impossible to predict if CWD would decimate feedground elk the way it has farm elk, because the animals on feedgrounds live in close proximity for only a few months a year, as opposed to year-round as they do on farms.

Source: Casper Tribune

Monday, October 13, 2008

INDIA NEWS: Deer Populations Exploding in Guindy National Park

At a time when dwindling animal populations are a concern in most national parks, Guindy National Park (GNP) is struggling to contain its exploding deer population.

Most species of deer reproduce rapidly, leading to stress on their habitat and population explosion. There is also a lot of in-breeding at GNP and as a result, the population is not a healthy one.

GNP, the only national park within city limits, has around 1,100 spotted deer and 380 black bucks. As the foliage reserve in the park is insufficient for the animals, the deer often stray outside in search of food.

"The deer population inside the park has gone beyond control and something has to be done immediately. The park does not have enough foliage to meet the huge demand," a worker at GNP told The Times of India. The park authorities have so far managed to hush up the straying of spotted deer from the park as the city has a strong free-ranging deer population. However, when the forest authorities rescued a black buck from the heart of Velachery in April last year, the straying of animals came to light.

Karunapriya, city wildlife warden in charge of GNP, said that some animals do stray out of the park. "The straying of deer from the park is very difficult to contain. We have open areas near Raj Bhavan and due to security reasons we cannot fence those areas. However, there is no shortage of foliage inside the park.
Otherwise such a huge population of deer could not be thriving," she said.

She also admitted that the gene pool of the deer inside the park is unhealthy because of in-breeding. "We are trying to find a solution to this. We often trap some of the healthy free-ranging spotted deer and let them into the park to enable cross-breeding," Karunapriya said. She said they are also planning to create open grass areas inside the park to increase the availability of foliage. "There are many such developmental plans but they are still being conceptualised," Karunapriya said.

Experts say that such problems are bound to happen as the park is located in the heart of the city. "There should be a plan of action to tackle problems like in-breeding and population explosion. Authorities should shift a few animals to other parks in the state and bring in some from other parks to encourage cross-breeding," a senior wildlife official said.

Source: Times of India

WISCONSIN NEWS: New Case of CWD At Hunting Preserve

For the first time in nearly four years, a Wisconsin hunting preserve has confirmed a positive case of Chronic Wasting Disease within its fences. Last week, the state's agriculture department announced that a white-tailed deer owned by Alligator Creek Whitetails LLC near Junction City in Portage County tested positive for CWD. The animal was killed on September 20 and was tested as part of standard procedure.

According to State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt, the seven-year-old doe was one of about 150 deer in the preserve. He says the Animal Health Division of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture will investigate the animal's history and trace movements of deer onto and off the property to find out whether other herds may have been exposed to the disease.

Deer herds on hunting preserves are generally not on the state's CWD monitoring program. However, new rules require that all farm-raised deer and elk 16 months or older must be tested when they die, go to slaughter or are killed.

Ehlenfeldt quarantined the Alligator Creek herd immediately. The business will be allowed to conduct hunts through January 15, because properly handled dead animals leaving the premises do not pose a disease risk. Hunters must be notified of the quarantine and the reason for it.

This is the first new CWD-infected herd on a Wisconsin farm since January 2005. To date, 97 farm-raised animals in Wisconsin have tested positive for CWD on eight farms and hunting preserves, including 82 on a single Portage County operation.

Source: Wisconsin Ag Connection

Thursday, October 09, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Deer Baiting Ban Upheld

A judge Thursday let stand a ban on feeding and baiting deer in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, ruling the state had authority to issue the emergency rule after its first case of chronic wasting disease was detected.

The decision was a blow for farmers and store owners who sued because they're being hurt financially by the ban. Hunters place piles of bait -- beets, carrots, corn, apples and other produce -- in areas to attract deer.

After hearing arguments, Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk acknowledged that a number of people earn a living by growing and selling the bait. But she said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources based its decision on "sound scientific management principles."

"It did it for the purpose of preserving deer and elk herd so that those who make their living from it may continue to do so in the future," Draganchuk said of the ban imposed Aug. 26. It's effective for six months and could be extended.

State attorneys defended the policy as a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of the disease.

It wasn't immediately known if the plaintiffs would file an appeal. Their attorney, Ed McNeely argued the ban was arbitrary and said arguments that it would stop the disease from spreading were "vastly overblown." A number of farmers and store owners watched the arguments in a Lansing courtroom.

Mike Kinzel, part owner of Highland Fuel in Hartland, which sells $40,000 to $50,000 worth of deer feed, said afterward that he's concerned the ban could be in effect "forever" if the state doesn't start taking into consideration the overall financial hit to the hunting industry.

The infected deer was discovered at a captive deer operation near Grand Rapids. It's unknown if the disease exists in the wild deer population. Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of infected deer and elk and produces small lesions that result in death.

It has never been shown to cause illness in humans.

"We are very pleased and felt all along we were doing the necessary and right thing," DNR spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said.

The state adopted a policy in 2002 that called for an immediate prohibition on feeding if chronic wasting disease were detected in either peninsula or within 50 miles of the state line.

Another part of the lawsuit pertaining to whether wildlife rehabilitation facilities can have fawns or not wasn't addressed Thursday.

Source: MLive

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

USA NEWS: Deer Crash Risks Updated (Now 1 in 45 in WV!)

For the second year in a row the vehicles most likely to collide with a deer are in West Virginia. Using its deer claims data from the last half of 2007 and the first half of 2008 and motor vehicle registration counts by state from the Federal Highway Administration, State Farm estimates the chances of a West Virginia vehicle colliding with a deer over the next 12 months at 1 in 45. Such a collision is even more likely in West Virginia than it was a year ago when the odds were 1 in 57.

The probability of a vehicle hitting a deer in West Virginia sometime in the next year is roughly two times greater than the possibility that you will be audited by the Internal Revenue Service in 2009 and 1,100 times greater than your chance of winning a state lottery grand prize if you buy one ticket per day for the next year.

Michigan remains second on the list. The likelihood of a specific vehicle striking a deer there next year is 1 in 78. Pennsylvania (1 in 97), Iowa (1 in 105) and Arkansas (1 in 108) each moved up one spot on the list to third, fourth and fifth respectively.

South Dakota is sixth. Wisconsin dropped from third to seventh. Montana, North Dakota and Virginia round out the top 10.

The state in which deer-vehicle collisions are least likely is still Hawaii (1 in 10,962).

The average property damage cost of these incidents was just over $2,950, up 2.5 percent from a year ago.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety®, there are approximately 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the United States, causing more than 150 fatalities and $1.1 billion in property damage. Rooney notes: In any given year, you are over four times more likely to get get killed by a deer than by a shark. State Farm’s data shows the total number of deer-vehicle collisions in the United States has increased 14.9 percent from five years ago.

These collisions are more frequent during the deer migration and mating season in October, November and December. The combination of growing deer populations and the displacement of deer habitat caused by urban sprawl are producing increasingly hazardous conditions for motorists and deer.

“State Farm has been committed to auto safety for several decades and that’s why we want to call attention to potential hazards like this one,” said Vice President-Strategic Resources Laurette Stiles. “We believe providing our customers with updated safety information helps prevent adversity.”

Here are tips on how to reduce the chances that a deer-vehicle collision involving your vehicle will be part of the story we tell in next year’s version of this news release:

Be aware of posted deer crossing signs. These are placed in active deer crossing areas.

Remember that deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m.

Use high beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer will enter roadways.

Keep in mind that deer generally travel in herds – if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.

Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles. They don’t work.

If a deer collision seems inevitable, attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Source: State Farm Insurance

MICHIGAN NEWS: Chronic Wasting Disease Not Found in Wild Populations

More than 300 wild Kent County deer have been tested and found to be clear of chronic wasting disease after the highly contagious disorder was found in one northern Kent County farm-raised deer in August.

As of Tuesday, state Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Mary Detloff said, no new cases of the disease had been discovered in Michigan.

Statewide, 1,095 deer have been tested, with 964 testing clean and 131 awaiting results. In Kent County, along with 305 that tested negative, 89 are awaiting results. And in a nine-township "hot zone" in northern Kent County around the area where the farm-raised deer was found, 224 deer have tested negative with results pending on 67 more.

Testing of deer continues as the state hopes to ensure the disease is not spreading in the wild population. It aims to test 8,000 deer this year. Deer being tested are brought in by hunters as well as harvested with special permits in the hot zone area.

To prevent large numbers of deer from visiting single locations where the disease might spread, the DNR in September instituted a complete ban in the Lower Peninsula on feeding deer, whether as bait for hunting or for recreational viewing. The illness spreads through an abnormal protein carried in deer feces, urine and saliva that can survive for years in the ground.

Source: MLive

Monday, September 29, 2008

IRELAND NEWS: Invasive Muntjac Deer to be Shot on Sight

TINY, four-footed Chinese "invaders" are to be shot on sight in Irish forests.

The 19-inch-high Muntjac deer have been brought into the country and released illegally into the wild, Department of the Environment officials believe.

The non-native species, also known as "barking" deer, pose a threat to the Irish deer populations of Sika, Red and Fallow.

The Department's experts say the non-native populations are susceptible to, or may act as a reservoir for, bovine TB, foot and mouth disease, Lyme's disease and bluetongue virus.

They also have a reputation for damaging crops.

The Muntjac have been spotted in Co Wicklow in three separate areas 15km apart and some have already been shot by licenced hunters.

Now Environment Minister John Gormley has declared "open season" on the Muntjac for the next 12 months under the Wildlife Act. Native deer species are protected and can only be hunted during very specific parts of the year. But licenced deer hunters will be able to hunt Muntjac throughout the State subject to the permission of the landowner.

"The introduction of the Muntjac deer in Britain has resulted in significant damage to commercial woodland, farm crops and gardens over the years," Mr Gormley said.

"I am of the view that this authorisation ensure that the species does not gain a foothold in the country.

"My Department are examining further measures with a view to eradicating this alien species before it becomes established."

The Muntjac's small size and its liking for woodland habitats together with its extended breeding season, allows it to build up numbers and reach high densities quickly.

The Department warned it is a criminal offence to introduce and release Muntjac deer and Mr Gormley said they would vigorously pursue "any individual introducing invasive species into the State."

Source: Herald.ie

Thursday, September 25, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Bait Ban Legal Challenge Fast-tracked

A judge has agreed to fast-track consideration of a lawsuit filed by opponents of a ban on baiting and feeding deer in the Lower Peninsula.

The complaint was filed earlier this week in Ingham County Circuit Court. It says the ban could be financially devastating for farmers who grow vegetables and fruits used as bait for deer.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources ordered the ban on baiting and feeding last month after the state’s first case of chronic wasting disease was detected in Kent County.

Judge Joyce Draganchuk on Wednesday approved a request for an expedited hearing. It was scheduled for Oct. 9.

Before the ban was imposed, hunters could have placed bait in woods and fields beginning Oct. 1.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Legal Challenge to Deer Feeding Law

Several opponents of a ban on baiting and feeding deer in Michigan's Lower Peninsula are fighting it in circuit court.

Their petition was filed Tuesday in Ingham County.

The Department of Natural Resources imposed the ban in August after Michigan's first case of chronic wasting disease was discovered at a captive deer operation in Kent County.

Officials fear baiting and feeding encourage wild deer to congregate, making it easier for disease to spread.

The petition was filed by a beet and carrot grower, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, a store owner and hunters.

Farmer Gerald Malburg tells the Ludington Daily News deer baiting provides the only market for his carrots.

A DNR spokeswoman tells the newspaper she can't comment because the matter is in litigation.

Source: MLive

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

MICHIGAN OPINION: Lessons from CWD Outbreak

Those things that hurt, instruct. - Ben Franklin

Although the dust is settling somewhat from the recent discovery of chronic wasting disease in a single Kent County deer, and the state began lifting quarantines on some deer farms this week, the end of the story is hardly in sight and there are likely to be important lessons along the way.

Those will surely include how one deer mysteriously turned up with this fatal neurological infection. Another is likely to be the need to increase funding for the captive cervid program in both the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture.

The state legislature chose to sanction the development of a deer livestock industry in 1990, but it has been negligent about ponying up the needed funds for the regulatory program that goes with it.

"The law went into effect in 2000 but the program has been unfunded," said Bridget Patrick, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Patrick is referring to PA 190, of 2000 which called for the creation of a deer livestock industry in Michigan under the Department of Agriculture. It also took the old captive deer permit program away from the DNR. MDA was to monitor and enforce animal health standards on deer and elk breeding farms. The DNR would license the facilities and physical plant.

DNR staff say less than a dozen of the facilities and fences are out of compliance today. But a 2005 audit of the captive cervid industry found that 37 percent of the breeding facilities did not comply with the rules for the industry. MDA officials today say that 240 still are not in full compliance.

Some of those are serious offenses. Some are not, but a 37 percent non-compliance rate is far too high for comfort.

MDA lifted quarantines on 11 deer farms this week. They were the best of the best in terms of meeting state rules. Another 50, or so, are expected to get the nod in the next few weeks.

That leaves more than 500 others still in quarantine. A third group may take longer, according to Steve Halstead, the state veterinarian with MDA. Much will depend on how far and wide the investigation goes.

And then there is a fourth group.

"These are the bad actors," Halstead said. "They are not in compliance, don't know their inventories, have not gotten the proper inspections and have been outside the program entirely. For them it could be a year or more."

Call it the price of non-compliance.

MDA officials acknowledge that they are shorthanded. More diseases are popping up than they are prepared to handle.

"We don't have funding for all we need to do," said Nancy Frank, the assistant state veterinarian with MDA. "We are also dealing with TB, pseudorabis and feral swine.

"If it was only CWD and feral swine, we could handle that," Frank said. "But we were not designed to handle all the diseases at one time."

The result is MDA staff are now spread thin. Staff working on pseudorabis and swine have been shifted to handle CWD, she said.

The Michigan DNR is also biting the bullet. Their part of the captive cervid program costs the agency approximately $360,000 a year, according to Shannon Hannah, a wildlife biologist who oversees the captive cervid program.

The program collected $164,000 total in license fees from the breeders this year. That is considerably less than half of what it costs to administer the program between the two agencies.

Another $158,000 was appropriate from the General Fund. The balance was drawn from the Fish and Game Fund, money paid by hunters and anglers, justified as money to protect the wild deer herd.

Hannah, the sole staff dedicated to the program, says she spends more time in court dealing with non-compliant deer breeders than she does out in the field. She relies on field biologists and conservation officers do a lot of the leg work inspecting facilities.

"One by one we are getting there, but it takes awhile to get through 600 facilities," Hannah said. "We are just giving them ultimatums: 'Fix the fence and get the animals tested or you're done."

The alternative, is, of course, unacceptable. Non-compliance puts a $500 million economic boost at risk with deer hunting. That says nothing of the $50 million deer breeding industry.

MDA and MDNR have both reacted admirably in the face of the CWD crisis. Both have done commendable jobs. But neither is adequately funded for the work on an ongoing basis.

That's something the Michigan legislature needs to take to heart.

Source: MLive

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: State Lawmakers To Reverse Deer Baiting Ban

I think I've seen this movie before. It has a bad ending. -TR

A trio of state lawmakers called on DNR Director Rebecca Humphries to rescind a ban on deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula that was enacted in response to an outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease on a game farm in Kent County.

State Reps. Jeff Mayes, D-Bay City, and Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, along with state Sen. James Barcia, D-Bay City, said the economic impact on the growers of bait crops could be devastating, and that reductions in the deer harvest by hunters who stay home rather than go into the field without bait could actually contribute to the spread of the disease (as larger herds congregate).

The Natural Resources Commission put the ban in place last month, citing the danger of the disease spreading among animals gathering over bait piles. But it has been hugely unpopular with many hunters and among farmers who depend on the sale of bait crops like carrots and sugar beets.

The lawmakers said they hope to have the resolutions taken up next week in the House and Senate. But it was not immediately clear what their impact would be because of questions over what authority the Legislature has to dictate policy on natural resources issues.

DNR spokeswoman Mary Detloff issued the following statement at mid-day today in response to the proposed resolutions:

“Two diseases have been found in Michigan deer that were not here historically. Those diseases (bovine tuberculosis and CWD) can be spread among deer by close contact with other deer through their saliva, nasal secretions, or (in the case of CWD) droppings. Concentrating deer activity at bait sites increases the likelihood that diseases will be passed from deer to deer.

"The DNR doubts that most people would say 'yes' to the question: Are you willing to risk causing Michigan's deer herd to be sick from chronic disease from this day forward just so that you can use bait?

"We firmly believe hunters want to pass a healthy deer herd on to the next generation. That is why it is important to stop baiting. Deer hunting generates a $500-million economic impact to the state each year, and a disease like CWD poses a grave threat to that if it is in the wild deer population. The impact of CWD in the wild herd would hurt many small businesses around the state -- many of whom do not sell bait.”

Source: Detroit Free Press

TEXAS NEWS: Drought, Sprawl Exacerbate Deer Conflicts

Drought and urban growth continue to contribute to increasing human-deer conflict throughout the state, according to wildlife researchers and specialists.

But while the interaction can be a nuisance and even pose potential hazards, experts say there are ways to help limit contact.

“Drought conditions have forced a lot of deer out of their normal habitat and comfort zone into green spaces we humans have created for ourselves,” said Jim Gallagher, Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde. "Conversely, communities have been expanding into formerly wild or undeveloped areas, also increasing the possibility of contact."

While “aggressive” attacks by deer rarely occur, threats to human life or financial loss continue as a result of deer-vehicle collisions and damage to crops or ornamental plants.

"Human-wildlife conflict occurs throughout the state, but people only tend to hear about it when it affects a significant number of people in a larger metropolitan area,” Gallagher said.

Some of the more notable incidents in recent years have occurred in the residential areas of Lakeway and Horseshoe Bay near Austin, Hollywood Park near San Antonio, and Sun City in the Georgetown area.

“More recently, we’ve seen increased deer-human conflict occurring in the Walden area of Conroe and residential areas around Lake Livingston,” said Dr. Clark Adams, a professor in the wildlife and fisheries sciences department of Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Although it’s a general and reductionist way of putting it, wherever there is outward human expansion, particularly in metropolitan areas of Texas, it’s inevitable that people will encounter white-tail deer,” Adams said.

Interactions between humans and deer have become much more prevalent in the Texas Hill Country, noted Dr. Susan Cooper, a Texas AgriLife Research scientist at the Uvalde center.Cooper has led several research projects aimed at understanding deer in their natural habitat and as part of the human-wildlife dynamic. Her research has included work on the supplemental feeding of deer, how deer interact with the landscape and improving deer management on rangeland. Most recently, she completed a general survey of increasing deer-human interaction in the Texas Hill Country.

The Hill Country is home to about 1.5 million white-tailed deer, and they are overabundant from both a human or biological perspective, she said. In addition, about a half-million people have moved into the Hill Country in the last six years.

Deer are attracted to residential areas because they provide safety from natural predators and hunters, and the irrigated and fertilized landscaping provides an abundant, accessible, high-quality food source.

“But the tolerance for deer and other wildlife tends to be inversely proportional to the amount of damage or inconvenience they cause,” she said. “This seems to be true even in areas where people move to be closer to nature or where there’s a good amount of eco-tourism. It’s one thing to watch deer, but quite another when they start eating your plants or cause you to have a car accident.”

Deer-vehicle accidents cause more than $1 billion in damage annually, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Institute data also shows 3 of 4 vehicle-wildlife accidents involve deer.

Additionally, the annual cost of ornamental landscape plants damaged by deer throughout the U.S. is estimated at more than $250 million.

“If deer don’t have sufficient food or water in their normal habitat or have too much competition, roadsides and residential areas can be an attractive alternative,” Cooper said.

Cooper and Gallagher said deer damage prevention and control methods range from exclusion, “cultural” methods, frightening and repellents to trapping, contraception and shooting.

Exclusion refers to keeping deer away by using a fence or individual wire or plastic protectors for trees, plants or shrubs deer are known to eat.

Cultural methods include planting deer-resistant trees and shrubs, and harvesting crops early to reduce exposure to deer and other wildlife.

Air horns, gas exploders and pyrotechnics are sometimes used to frighten deer. There are also a number of commercially available repellents that work through smell or direct application to plants or bushes.

“Where deer populations need to be reduced, public sentiment usually favors some type of non-lethal control,” Cooper said. “But immunocontraception is currently in the experimental phase and is not yet legally approved, plus it’s difficult and expensive. And many deer die within a year after being trapped and relocated.”

Though community-wide efforts are generally the most effective solution to human-wildlife issues, people are often divided in their opinions on how to manage deer, said Kevin Schwausch, big game program specialist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“TPWD provides technical assistance to people in suburban areas who have deer issues and provides guidance,” he said. “But it’s best if people in affected communities work together and form a committee to make sure they’re going in the same direction before taking deer management actions.”

Schwausch said although it seems obvious, one of the first and most useful steps people in suburban communities can take to reduce deer activity is not to feed them.

Gallagher noted that while some deterrents may work at first, their effectiveness may not be consistent, especially if the deer become very hungry.

“Putting up fencing, keeping a dog outside and placing iron or plastic guards around expensive ornamental plants, trees or bushes are among the most effective non-lethal means,” he said. “Of course, it would be best to put up fencing before the deer find out what kind of a ‘buffet’ your landscape provides for them.”

Cooper said even if deer numbers are reduced, follow-up management is needed to ensure their population will not increase as their food supply increases.

More information on deer damage prevention and control can be found at http://www.extension.org/pages/Deer_Damage_Management .

Source: Blanco County News

Monday, September 15, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA NEWS: Duke Forest Deer Targeted

When designated hunters begin hunting deer in Duke University's Duke Forest, white deer will be off limits, said the forest's resource manager.

Hunters with bows were able to begin hunting in four of the six forest divisions Monday. But Judson Edeburn, the Duke Forest resource manager, told The News & Observer of Raleigh that the hunters are under instructions not to take any white deer.

Multiple white deer have been sighted around Duke Forest, a 7,000-acre research property in Durham, Orange and Alamance counties. Some hunters say protecting the albino deer allows a recessive trait to continue.

But Edeburn is aware of the role that white animals have in spiritual and historic legends. "The bottom line is the hunters are under instruction not to take the white deer," he said.

WRAL-TV reports that researchers estimate there are as many 80 white-tail deer per square mile in parts of the forests. That's more than four times the recommended number.

"We've made the decision that we need to try to control the deer herd to some extent," Edeburn said.

The deer eat just about everything in their path, affecting not just the habitat for other animals but also regeneration of the forest, officials said.

"The forest is essentially dying, because the deer are overrunning it," Duke researcher Jeff Pippen said.

Four of the forest's six sections - Blackwood, Durham, Eno and Hillsboro - will be open to hunting Monday through Thursday until Dec. 30 to those designated hunters. No public hunting is allowed.

There's also no hunting Friday through Sunday or on holidays.

Although they believe the hunt is necessary, forest officials say they understand some people are upset.

"This has taken years, on our part, and it's a difficult decision, because we know it affects a lot of people. But we've done it with a lot of thought, with a lot of input," Edeburn said.

Source: Myrtle Beach Sun News

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Thousands of hunters and owners of small businesses are in turmoil over a Lower Peninsula-wide ban on baiting and feeding of deer that state officials have imposed because of Michigan's first chronic wasting disease case.

State officials want to protect the state's hunter-based marketplace, but critics say the ban threatens autumn's $500 million hunter-based economy.

Deer feed suppliers, hunters and owners of commercial deer facilities packed a state House hearing on Tuesday. More are expected at a Thursday meeting of the State Natural Resources Commission, which is considering an extension of the six-month ban.

"If this ban is not lifted, it puts me in bankruptcy," Saginaw grower-wholesaler Tony Benkert told the committee.

Bart's Fruit Market owner Mark Bartholomew of Houghton Lake, which normally supplies 250 deer feed outlets throughout Michigan, said he laid off 17 workers and will have to cut still more.

"The DNR is playing with a lot of people's livelihood," he said, referring to the Department of Natural Resources, which imposed the ban.

Natural Resources wildlife veterinarian Steve Schmitt told lawmakers allowing baiting to continue would be "like playing Russian roulette with the wild deer herd."

First identified in Colorado 40 years ago, the disease has spread eastward to 11 states and two Canadian provinces. None has been able to eradicate it.
In Wisconsin, where it showed up first in wild deer killed in 2001, the effort has included baiting bans in 26 of 72 counties and hiring sharpshooters to thin the deer herd. Schmitt said scientific models, based on experience in Colorado and Wisconsin, suggest it could wipe out three-fourths of the deer herd over 50 years.

DNR Director Rebecca Humphries imposed Michigan's baiting ban after the Aug. 25 confirmation of the fatal brain and nervous system disease in a doe at a Kent County deer breeding facility. That follows protocols set up in 2002 following the early Wisconsin cases.

The State Natural Resources and Agriculture departments also have slapped quarantines on more than 550 private facilities where deer are raised and kept for hunting, breeding and hobby purposes.

What's at stake is personal for Imlay City-area grower John Morocco, whose 40 acres annually produce 120,000 40-pound bags of carrots and $140,000 in income. That deer feed provides most of the essentials for his family of five. "I've been doing this for 30 years and I've been told we now don't have an income," said Morocco, 54. "I'm worried about how I'm going to feed my family."

The order doesn't prevent Morocco from raising or selling his carrots as deer bait. But his phone isn't ringing off the hook, as has been customary with archery deer season three weeks away and hunters making preparations for the Nov. 15 start of the general firearms season.

South of St. Johns in mid-Michigan, Andy Todoscuik expects a sharp drop in the $40,000 his landscaping-nursery-bakery business usually collects from deer feed sales in the fall. "It'll turn us into a ghost town until Thanksgiving," predicted Todoscuik.

Hunters also are perplexed.

Robert Tobolski and fellow workers at the Warren TACOM plant, who have a hunting club, last weekend removed corn and salt licks from their hunting area near Milford.
"I had a few bucks invested, let's put it that way, so it's kind of upsetting," said Tobolski, 52.

Source: Detroit News

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

MONTANA NEWS: Mule Deer Cull Approved

Helena police will begin killing mule deer in the city limits next week.

Police Chief Troy McGee told city commissioners Monday that he expects officers to reach their quota of 50 deer by the end of October.

The pilot project is part of an effort to control the city's growing population of mule deer. The plan was approved by the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission.

McGee says the project will begin on private land on the city's southeast side. Deer will be trapped and then killed with a bolt gun, which does not fire a projectile. Any fawns that are trapped will be released.

Meat from the deer will be processed by Helena Food Share and distributed to clients.

An estimated 700 deer live in the Helena city limits.

Source: KXMB

Thursday, September 04, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Deer Baiting Banned Following CWD Discovery

When the baiting ban was announced following last week's discovery of chronic wasting disease in a deer in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources and newspapers got many calls and e-mails from angry hunters.

Most thought the DNR had overacted and predicted a reduction in hunter numbers, and some said they would hunt in other states. One man fumed that he would hunt in Illinois, failing to recognize that baiting is illegal in that state and 23 others.

Explaining why the ban covered the entire Lower Peninsula rather than just Kent County, where the sick deer was found, DNR big game specialist Rod Clute said the agency was simply following a CWD action plan approved six years ago by the DNR, the Agriculture Department and the Legislature.

"We'd rather say no to baiting in the Lower Peninsula now than find out later that we should have said no. This deer is the first, and we're hoping we've found an ice cube rather than an iceberg," he said.

Here are the DNR's answers to some questions hunters have asked.

Will things like salt blocks, mineral licks and attractants like C'Mere Deer be legal?

No. Anything that's designed to draw a deer to eat or lick it is banned. Attractant scents like doe urine and doe-in-estrus are legal.

Some people like to feed deer just to view them, not to hunt. Is that still legal?

No. And food put out for other wildlife, like turkeys, is legal only if it is made inaccessible to deer.

Why isn't baiting banned in the Upper Peninsula?

The CWD plan says that baiting will be banned if an infected deer is found within 50 miles of either of Michigan's peninsulas. The Kent County deer was 250 miles from the UP.

Food plots are still legal. Aren't they just as likely to spread disease as bait?

Many studies have shown that concentrating bait in piles is far more likely to spread deer disease than food plots. The science is sound on this. In addition, the DNR has no control over agricultural practices and can't legally stop people from growing crops.

Bait is still being sold by a lot of stations and mom-and-pop stores. Why doesn't the DNR just ban the sale of bait?

Once again, the DNR has the authority to regulate the method and manner by which we hunt deer. It doesn't have the authority to regulate commerce and tell stores what they can sell. It's up to the hunters to end those sales by refusing to buy bait.

I see deer licking each other all the time. Won't that spread disease?

Deer are social animals and tend to move in groups of three to eight that usually are related, and they do lick each other. What bait piles do is draw in a lot more unrelated deer and increase the amount of contact between them. Bait piles also increase the amount of urine and feces dropped in a small area. Just as a hospital full of sick people is a good place for humans to pick up an infection, a bait pile that draws sick deer is a way to increase the chance of disease spreading among animals.

If I unknowingly eat venison from a deer with CWD, can I catch the disease?

CWD infects deer species that include whitetails, mule deer, elk and moose. Other mammals, including humans, apparently are immune. However, erring on the side of caution, scientists recommend that people avoid eating meat from a deer known to be infected with CWD or that they think may have the disease.

They've found a couple of dozen dead deer along the Clinton River in southeast Michigan in the past couple of weeks. Could they have died from CWD?

The DNR is investigating those deer deaths, but tests so far have ruled out CWD, bovine tuberculosis or any other known disease. Biologists are awaiting the results of toxicology tests to see if the deer were poisoned by something in their environment or in the water.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

VIRGINIA NEWS: Deer Feeding Now Illegal

Effective September 1, it will be illegal to feed deer statewide in Virginia. The prohibition runs through the first Saturday in January (January 3, 2009). The regulation designating the prohibition went into effect in 2006.
This regulation does NOT restrict the planting of crops such as corn and soybeans, wildlife food plots, and backyard or schoolyard habitats. It is intended to curb the artificial feeding of deer that leads to negative consequences.

Problems with feeding deer include: unnaturally increasing population numbers that damage natural habitats; disease transmission, including tuberculosis as well as many deer diseases; and human-deer conflicts such as deer/vehicle collisions and inappropriate semi-taming of wildlife.

In addition, feeding deer has many law enforcement implications. Deer hunting over bait is illegal in Virginia. Prior to the deer feeding prohibition, distinguishing between who was feeding deer and who was hunting over bait often caused law enforcement problems for the Department.

Deer Feeding was Booming Along with the Population

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Deer Project Coordinators Matt Knox and Nelson Lafon noted when the regulation first took effect that for more than twenty years the practice of feeding deer had expanded across the eastern United States among both deer hunters and the non-hunting general public. The most common reason for feeding deer is to improve their nutrition and to supplement the habitat's ability to support more deer; in other words, to increase the carrying capacity for deer.

According to Knox, many people feed deer because they believe it will keep them from starving, but this is not a legitimate reason to feed deer in Virginia. In Virginia, deer die-offs due to winter starvation have been almost nonexistent and according to Lafon, "We do not need more deer in Virginia. In fact, we need fewer deer in many parts of the state."

Nelson Lafon completed a revision of the Department's Deer Management Plan in June 2007. Based on his research, it appears that the citizens of the Commonwealth would like to see deer populations reduced over most of the state. Lafon noted that Virginia's deer herds could be described as overabundant from a human tolerance perspective and stated that feeding deer only makes this overabundance problem worse.

Is Your Bird Feeder Attracting Deer?

Supplemental feeding artificially concentrates deer on the landscape, leading to over-browsed vegetation, especially in and around feeding sites. Over-browsing destroys habitat needed by other species, including songbirds.

It is not unheard of for deer to take advantage of bird feeders and begin to eat spilled birdseed. Individuals who inadvertently are feeding deer through their bird feeders may be requested by VDGIF conservation police officers to temporarily remove feeders until the deer disperse.

Deer Are Wild Animals

In their natural state, deer are wild animals that have a fear of humans because we have preyed upon deer for thousands of years. However, when deer are fed by people, they lose this fear, becoming less wild and often semi-domesticated.

Fed deer are often emboldened to seek human foods, leading them into conflict with people. Despite their gentle appearance, they can become lethally dangerous during mating season capable of goring and slashing with their sharp hooves and antlers. There are numerous cases across the country of individuals injured, and in some cases even killed, by deer they treated as pets.

People often treat the deer they feed as if they own them, even going so far as to name individual deer. Not only does this association diminish the "wildness" of "wildlife", it also leads to a mistaken notion regarding ownership of wildlife. Deer and other wildlife are owned by citizens of the Commonwealth and are managed by the Department as a public resource.

Deer Feeding Congregates Animals, Increasing the Spread of Disease

The increase in deer feeding that has taken place in Virginia over the past decade now represents one of Virginia's biggest wildlife disease risk factors. According to VDGIF Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Jonathan Sleeman, deer feeding sets the stage for maintaining and facilitating the spread of disease.

According to Dr. Sleeman, diseases are a big issue in deer management today across the United States. Feeding deer invariably leads to the prolonged crowding of animals in a small area, resulting in more direct animal to animal contact and contamination of feeding sites. Deer feeding has been implicated as a major risk factor and contributor in the three most important deer diseases in North America today. These include tuberculosis, brucellosis, and chronic wasting disease (CWD). Fortunately, none of these diseases have been found in deer in Virginia, although CWD is present in West Virginia, less than 5 miles from Frederick County, Virginia.

Please Don't Feed Deer

It is clear that the negative consequences of feeding deer outweigh the benefits. If you are not feeding deer, you should not start. If you are currently feeding deer, you should now stop. Feeding deer is against the law between September 1 and the first Saturday in January. If anyone sees or suspects someone of illegally feeding deer during this time period, or observes any wildlife violations, please report it to the Department's Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5712.

Source: Twin County News

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DELAWARE NEWS: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Found in Delaware Deer

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Division of Fish & Wildlife is reassuring Delaware residents and hunters that an insect-borne disease that has been killing white-tailed deer throughout North America does not affect humans and has little long-range ramifications for the health of the state’s deer herd.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), also known as “blue tongue,” is the most significant disease afflicting white-tailed deer in North America but is also the best known and most widely studied, having first been identified in 1955 with regular, almost annual outbreaks since. By Delaware standards, last year was an uncommonly severe year, with 132 EHD-related deer fatalities.

“We recently received the first report of a suspected EHD deer casualty this year, so we want to begin educating hunters and the public about the disease. While the virus is often fatal, it apparently did not have much of an impact on the Delaware deer population, as the overall harvest from the 2007-2008 season was the third all-time highest. If EHD had significantly impacted the deer herd, we would have expected the harvest to be down, but we didn’t see that,” said Game Mammal Biologist Joe Rogerson.

Humans cannot be infected by EHD, nor can the disease be transmitted by consuming venison from infected animals. However, hunters are advised to avoid eating visibly sick deer because they may be stricken by a secondary infection that could affect people, Rogerson noted.

EHD is transmitted by small biting flies commonly called midges or “no-see-ums.” All known outbreaks of EHD in Delaware have occurred in late summer and early fall, and are abruptly curtailed with the onset of frost, which kills the midges and suspends the hatch of larvae. No pesticides can be sprayed to kill the insects that cause EHD, nor can white-tailed deer be vaccinated against the disease.

“We are in a position of allowing nature to run its course and waiting for a hard frost to kill the midges,” Rogerson said.

Symptoms of the disease in deer resemble another sickness, chronic wasting disease, or CWD, which is not yet known to have occurred in Delaware. Afflicted animals exhibit pronounced swelling of, and bleeding from the head, neck, tongue and eyes. Deer can die from EHD as soon as one day after contracting it, but more commonly survive for three to five days. Carcasses are often recovered near water and the EHD outbreaks are most often associated with periods of drought.

As with many viruses, not all deer will die once they are infected. Some will be able to enact an immune response and fight off the infection. These deer will then have the antibodies to ward off any potential future infections. The virus deteriorates less than 24 hours after a deer dies, and cannot be spread from carcasses. EHD does not generally have a significant impact on livestock.

Hunters or members of the public who see a deer carcass with no readily apparent cause of death are asked to report it to Game Mammal Biologist Joe Rogerson, Division of Fish & Wildlife, at 302-735-3600.

“While nothing can be done to prevent the further spread of EHD until colder weather halts the midges from infecting deer, the Division would like to document deer mortality for research and to obtain data for future references to the disease,” Rogerson said.

Source: Delmarva Now!

MICHIGAN NEWS: Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed in Deer

A whitetail deer at a captive facility in Kent County has been confirmed to have chronic wasting disease. The fatal illness in its latter stages has symptoms similar to mad cow disease but affects only cervids like moose, elk and deer, state officials said Monday.

The Michigan Agriculture Department placed an immediate quarantine on all of the 580 captive cervid facilities in Michigan, and Becky Humphries, director of the Department of Natural Resources, said she would announce a total ban on the baiting and feeding of wild deer in the Lower Peninsula as of today.

Even before the single case was confirmed in a 3-year-old doe that was born at the Kent County facility, the state had quarantined five other deer operations in Montcalm and Osceola counties that bought deer from it or sold deer to it.

Humphries said the state's primary concern was to ensure that the disease has not spread from the captive deer to the state's wild deer herd of about 1.5 million whitetails.

DNR veterinarian Steve Schmitt said that under a chronic wasting disease plan the state wrote in 2002, a so-called hot zone was declared in the area within five miles of the infection site, including all or parts of Tyrone, Solon, Nelson, Sparta, Algoma, Courtland, Alpine, Plainfield and Cannon townships.

Testing will be required for all deer killed within that zone.

Schmitt said that even before deer hunting starts with the archery season Oct. 1, the DNR will try to test 300 deer in the hot zone that will be taken under crop damage permits or by roadkills. Another 300 will be tested in surrounding counties.

About a dozen years ago, baiting was banned in some localized areas after bovine tuberculosis was discovered in wild whitetail deer in several counties in the northeastern Lower Peninsula.

But often hunters ignored that ban, and bait continued to be sold even at the heart of the TB zone.

Biologists believed it was a only a matter of time before the wasting disease, first identified about 40 years ago in captive deer in Colorado, reached Michigan after spreading to a dozen other states in the last three years, including Wisconsin and Illinois.

Chronic wasting disease is caused by mutated proteins called prions, which cause nearby proteins to mutate. This usually happens in the brain and spinal column.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Sunday, August 17, 2008

MARYLAND NEWS: Deer Versus Biodiversity at a Unique Serpentine Barren

As fragile ecosystems go, Soldiers Delight might be Maryland's Faberge egg -- rare, beautiful and valuable.

Walk along its 7 miles of trails and see rare plants, at least 39 varieties, and insects.

"You can't step off the trail without stepping on something rare," Wayne Tyndall, the state restoration ecologist, says during a recent hike.

So we tread lightly, putting our feet on clumps of grass as we hopscotch our way to view delicate Eastern Blazing Star, 3 inches high with little round buds about to blossom into purple flowers.

But we had better look quickly, Tyndall advises.

"It's getting hammered. It's being eaten before it even flowers," he says. "The deer eat new shoots because they're tender."

That's the way it is for so much of Soldiers Delight's flora: 15 wildflowers on the state's endangered and threatened list and seven grasses on the endangered list.

What scientists think of as rare, deer see as an all-you-can-eat salad bar.

And that's a big problem.

Labeled a "Natural Environment Area" by the state, Soldiers Delight is 1,900 acres of serpentine barren located between Owings Mills and Liberty Reservoir in western Baltimore County.

Serpentine is a bedrock that began its life as magma oozing from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean about 500 million years ago. Soldiers Delight is the largest remaining serpentine barren in the eastern United States, so it attracts a lot of living things that find it tough going elsewhere. It is Maryland's richest concentration of rare and endangered species.

Keeping the area safe requires constant battles, some more successful than others.

Take, for example, the invasion of the invasive species. Over decades, groves of Virginia pines took root, followed by massive patches of greenbrier, both of which threaten rare grasslands. But in recent years, the Department of Natural Resources has fought back with axes and fire to restore the land, which allowed the oak trees to flourish as they did decades ago.

"We started seeing the oaks expand, and we started getting excited," Tyndall says. "Now, the oaks are on hold."

What has stopped the oaks in their tracks are deer, eight times as many as the area should have.

The deer have eaten every oak seedling in sight, leaving behind an area with mature trees and saplings but no next generation in the pipeline.

That's bad news for a species of rare butterfly that uses only oak saplings to lay its eggs and complete its life cycle. (I'm not naming the butterfly because history shows that some collectors will swoop in and turn the entire population of rare critters into an extinct one.)

In a double whammy for the butterflies, browsing deer are digging up the living quarters of Allegheny mound ants and using them for salt licks. The aggressive ants, attracted by a sugary secretion from the butterfly caterpillars, provide protection from predatory wasps and birds when the caterpillars venture out to feed. Without their bodyguards, the caterpillars are as dead as Sonny Corleone at the causeway toll booth.

It gets worse. Even if the caterpillars make it to adult stage, the deer have eaten the wildflowers that are a major food source.

"Oak suppression, ant suppression, wildflower suppression -- what's a butterfly to do?" Tyndall asks.

Wildflower devastation also hurts migrating hummingbirds searching for fuel. The loss of Eastern Blazing Star is bad for songbirds that feast when the flowers turn to seed. Sassafras seedlings are being chewed, too.

In another area of Soldiers Delight just a stone's throw from Interstate 795, deer have cleared out all the small oaks with the efficiency of a wood chipper.

"We're looking at a dead forest. These trees aren't going to life forever, and when they die ... " Tyndall's voice trails off.

The death of oak trees has opened the door for invasive species, such as Chinese sumac -- called "Trees of Heaven" by nurseries once eager to sell them -- and Japanese barberry, a prolific and popular spiny shrub with red berries.

Efforts by volunteers and students from Stevenson University to repel the invaders have had limited success.

"Do you see any hiding places for box turtles or raccoons? It's pretty sterile. There's no cover," says Glenn Therres, who leads DNR's endangered species conservation work.

Despite some fuss from hunting haters, the state began allowing archers in two remote sections of Soldiers Delight. But in two seasons, bow hunters have taken fewer than 40 deer, not enough to slow the burgeoning population.

"If you don't put the hunters where the deer are, you're not going to have a successful hunt," says Paul Peditto, head of DNR's Wildlife and Heritage Service.

So wildlife managers are drafting a new proposal that could include a short-term managed shotgun hunt in late winter, when plants are dormant and trail use is low. Similar hunts are used at Seneca Creek State Park in Montgomery County, Gunpowder Falls State Park in Baltimore County and Susquehanna State Park near Havre de Grace. The proposal is expected to be ready by mid-September.

Peditto says it's not realistic to think other measures will work at Soldiers Delight.

"It's one thing to be able to fence in a few dozen plants. It's another to fence in an entire thousand-acre ecosystem. Where do I start?" he says.

Tyndall says the clock is running on Soldiers Delight's future.

"We still have a chance here," Tyndall says. "But time is limited. You reach a point where you just have to walk away."

Source: Baltimore Sun

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

OHIO NEWS: Special Hunts in State Nature Preserves, Trillium Protection Invoked

An increasing deer population, resulting in extensive damage to native plant communities, has led the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves to coordinate special archery deer hunts at state nature preserves across the state.

High quality habitats at these state nature preserves have been negatively impacted by over-browsing deer. For example, several acres of large flowered trillium, Ohio's state wildflower, have nearly disappeared at Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve because of foraging deer. Similar situations occur at 24 other sites.

There will be six two-week archery hunts beginning Nov. 2 through Jan. 24, 2009. Hunters may harvest two deer, but must harvest an antlerless deer first. Antlerless deer permits are allowed.

To apply for the special archery hunt lotteries, applicants must send in a postcard with their name, address, daytime phone number and the hunt name along with a $5 processing fee. Cash not accepted -- checks and money orders must be made out to Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. Processing fees are not refundable.

To enter, applicants must submit a separate postcard and $5 processing fee for each hunt. Entries must be mailed to the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, 2045 Morse Road, Bldg. F-1, Columbus, OH 43229.Lottery entries must be received by Sept. 6. Successful archery hunt applicants will be notified by mail.

Local hunts include: Huron County, Augusta-Anne Olsen Archery Hunt; Lucas County, Lou Campbell Archery Hunt; and in Seneca County, Howard Collier Archery Hunt and Springville Marsh Archery Hunt.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/6ltjwr

Monday, August 11, 2008

MASSACHUSETTS NEWS: Lyme Disease and the Complexities of Deer Management in the Suburbs

State and town officials are grappling with what will happen if Dover implements an expanded deer-hunting season to combat Lyme disease this year, and the question has started a dialogue about a regional evaluation of hunting in the suburbs.

Dover hopes to reduce its share of the deer population, which the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife puts at 20 deer per square mile in a region that should support only six to eight per square mile.

"The feeling is Dover is really close to ground zero for Lyme disease," said Harvey George, chairman of Dover's Board of Health. "The only reliable way to reduce Lyme disease appears to be to reduce the deer population and the amount of deer ticks," which can transmit the disease to humans.

But increased hunting could create a problem for neighboring towns.

"If Dover undertook a culling program, the deer would move out," George said.

Thomas K. O'Shea, assistant director of wildlife at the state agency, said expanding Dover's season, depending on what kind of additional hunting is allowed, could send deer temporarily into neighboring communities

Natick's Conservation Commission agent, Robert Bois, said he isn't as worried about deer from Dover - he thinks they already come and go across the town borders - as he is eager for a regional plan to tackle the problem.

"Overall, the deer population is out of control, and we've had Lyme disease incidents in this area," Bois said.

However, he said, the interlocking parcels of private and public land in Natick and neighboring towns, and the differing rules about how they can be hunted, represent a potential roadblock to that goal.

"It's a real maze, and the state would have to be party to that bigger issue," Bois said.

Opening land to hunters is not a simple process, O'Shea said. The patchwork of land-control interests, and differing limitations on what kind of weapons can be fired near residences, he said, pose "one of the biggest limits to deer management in Eastern Massachusetts. The fragmented suburban landscape presents barriers."

Needham is one example of that fragmentation, said the town's conservation officer, Kristen Phelps, who cited the various municipal entities that control deer habitat potentially involved in an expanded hunting arrangement.

"Ownership of large parcels is split here between four departments," Phelps said. "Park and Recreation manages town forests, the Conservation Commission manages Ridge Hill Reservation, then there's the School Department and the Board of Selectmen," she said.

Phelps supports a regional dialogue about hunting.

"There needs to be a broader conversation," she said. "I think it's a good conversation to initiate."

So does Jennifer Steel, assistant conservation agent at the Framingham Conservation Commission, a town in which O'Shea said only a portion of 4,000 acres of forest are huntable.

Steel and her colleagues have brought Sudbury Conservation Commission officials - who have worked to expand hunting on town lands since 1999 - to meetings of the Framingham board.

Steel said Framingham "leaned heavily on Sudbury's regulation and experience" in drafting a pilot program to open two previously protected habitats to deer hunters. And then the dialogue went further.

"The concept of a regional approach was broached," and the Framingham commission "at that time seemed to be very supportive of that idea," Steel said. "Is it needed? I would say, according to state statistics, yes. It's a question of the will" of area commissions, she added.

It's also a question of ecological sustainability, according to Lou Wagner, a Massachusetts Audubon Society scientist for Greater Boston. Wagner said deer numbers have strained the region's suburbs.

"Automobile accidents, incidents of Lyme disease, and, from a conservation point of view, many species of plants are beginning to disappear," Wagner said in citing problems from large deer populations. "The long-term regeneration of the forest is affected. In some areas, you can look through the forest floors and there's no vegetation left. That has an impact on a wide range of species of wildlife."

It is a relatively recent imbalance, according to Wagner, who said 20 years ago deer were harder to find in the area. Coordinated management is an encouraging development, he said.

"If just one community allows for expanded hunting, and one community does not, it creates less of an impact than a concerted effort," said Wagner. "What they're talking about sounds like the best approach. Getting more communities on board to help control deer population."

Edward Dennison, chairman of the Dover Conservation Commission, said cooperation among communities is the only practical solution.

"My personal view is to simply open public land to hunting," Dennison said. "But the deer population isn't going to go down appreciably. There are not enough hunters bagging enough deer to make a difference" in one town. "If you want to do this seriously, do something organized and systematic."

Steel said it would take the state's help to build the kind of regional plan that conservation commissions want.

"MassWildlife is centrally coordinated and the most efficient way of doing that," Steel said. "It would then have to grow and subdivide organically. Many towns have fairly broad bans on hunting, so the regulatory framework would have to be evaluated to figure out what units of management would make most sense."

O'Shea said his agency could help with the evaluation.

"What we can do is look at our data from the landscape perspective and identify areas and towns where it would be suitable to open areas for hunting," said O'Shea. "It's good that communities have identified access as the key to managing deer. We'd certainly be glad to work with towns together."

Source: http://tiny.cc/GUd02