Friday, January 25, 2008

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Cull Underway in Essex Co. Reserve

Sharpshooters will take to the trees next Tuesday in the South Mountain Reservation in Essex County to deal with a problem that has become the scourge of many suburban communities: too many deer.

The 10-day hunt in the 2,000-acre reservation, a picturesque area of woodlands, streams and trails, is scheduled to start on Jan. 29 and continue every Tuesday and Thursday, 5:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., through Feb. 28.

Proponents of the hunt say it is necessary to thin the number of white-tailed deer because they are destroying the vegetation and becoming a hazard for motorists.

"I don't own a gun. I'm not a hunter. It's not something that I want to do, but it's something I have to do," said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., who pushed for the hunt.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and leaders of the four municipalities around the reservation have signed off on the hunt. But animal rights activists have criticized it; they prefer a nonlethal alternative such as contraceptives. And some residents worry the shooting will be too close to homes and businesses.

During the hunt, a team of 15 volunteer hunters who've gone through a special training course will be allowed to shoot deer from perches in trees, although only 12 will be allowed in the reservation at one time.

Notices warning residents about the hunt have already been mailed out, and DiVincenzo has been meeting with residents in the communities bordering the reservation -- Maplewood, Millburn, South Orange and West Orange -- to address safety concerns.

The last of those meetings is scheduled for noon Thursday in West Orange.

On hunt days, roads going in to the reservation will be closed off, and people won't be allowed to enter.


MICHIGAN NEWS: Possible Case of Bovine TB in Deer Outside "TB Zone"

A case of bovine tuberculosis may have turned up well outside the part of Michigan where the disease previously has been concentrated.

State officials say a deer recently killed in Shiawassee County is suspected of carrying bovine TB. They are awaiting final test results. A hunter killed the deer more than 100 miles south of the TB Zone in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula, where authorities have tried to contain the outbreak since the late 1990s.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture plans to schedule cattle herds for testing within a 10-mile radius of where the deer was taken. Meanwhile, the state has declared two sections of Iosco County as "potential high-risk areas" after bovine TB was confirmed in a couple of deer there.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

SOUTH DAKOTA OPINION: Bill Would Give Landowners Extra Deer Tags

Two things are quite certain in the rural sections of South Dakota: The deer population is too high, and their constant depredation is tough on farmers, ranchers and landowners.
South Dakota’s landscape is crawling with deer. They’re everywhere — whether it’s along the roadsides at night or in a farmer’s stores of silage at sunup.

Anybody who has a new plan to cut the deer population should speak up. We’re listening.

State Sen. Julie Bartling, D-Burke, has done so.

Earlier this week, she told the Legislature about her plan to allow landowners and lease-holders an additional deer license to be used on their land. The extra tag can be used at the landowner/lessee’s discretion and given to resident or nonresident hunters. The tags would only be valid on the landowner/lessee’s land and can only be issued to those with at least 320 acres of agriculture, grazing or timber land.

Bartling’s plan is backed by the state’s two largest livestock organizations: the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and the South Dakota Cattleman’s Association.

The state Department of Game, Fish and Parks is trying to cull the herd, and has been for several years now. The agency has increased the number of tags regularly in the past several years, and that has correlated to a much larger harvest. For instance, hunters killed 51,666 deer in South Dakota in 2000; in 2006, the number was 86,806 — an increase of 56 percent.

We need those kinds of harvest increases in South Dakota because the same conditions that have allowed our pheasant population to soar past 10 million have been equally kind to the wild, hooved quadrupeds of our state.

All of those foodplots, trees and switchgrass fields that have been planted to aid pheasants have, in some eyes, backfired when it comes to deer numbers. Several straight years of moderate winters haven’t helped, either.

And as we have said many times before: If you want proof of the state’s growing deer numbers, simply take a drive along a rural highway late at night. They’re everywhere, and they’re a danger to the lives of motorists.

The GF&P does not back Bartling’s second-license plan. The worry is that nonresident hunters would be able to compete more directly in seeking the limited pool of buck licenses during the East River season.

Would this program take a large bite out of the deer herd? Probably not, but we feel that anything to promote more deer hunting in South Dakota is a good idea.

For years, landowners have been dealing with depredation to their valuable crops and stored feed as the deer population grows. We don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed a chance to harvest more of those troublesome pests.


MISSOURI NEWS: 2007 Is Third Largest Deer Harvest On Record

Good hunting by archers contributed to the third-largest deer hunting harvest on record by the time the 2007 hunting season ended, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Hunters took 302,666 whitetails during the hunting season.

Although the harvest was seven percent below the previous year’s hunt, the harvest still ranked third.

Several factors made the hunting season difficult to deal with, according to the department.

Acorn production was down, which caused deer to congregate where food was available. But warm, windy weather during November and an ice storm late in the hunting season affected hunter turnout. Biologists also found more evidence deer were infected with epizootic hemorrhagic disease in some areas.


Monday, January 21, 2008

KANSAS NEWS: More CWD Found Near Nebraska Border

Three Decatur County white-tailed deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, a discovery that comes on the heels of a similar discovery just a couple miles across the border in Nebraska.

The announcement concerning the positive tests was made Friday afternoon.

The Nebraska discovery prompted Kansas wildlife officials to accelerate the testing process for deer killed in northwest Kansas. Testing still remains to be done on about two-thirds of the samples collected during the state deer seasons, most of the samples coming during the firearms season, according to Mike Miller, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

The hunters who shot the animals and provided samples to KDWP have been notified of the test results, he said.

This is the second time chronic wasting disease -- transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, similar to mad cow disease -- has been found in free-ranging deer in northwest Kansas, the first coming in December 2005 when a white-tailed deer from Cheyenne County tested positive for CWD.

Although there is no evidence CWD is a threat to humans, officials suggest any exposure to infected animals be minimized.

The deer that tested positive all were killed by hunters along Sappa Creek in central Decatur County, north of Oberlin. The Nebraska deer that tested positive was killed along Beaver Creek in Red Willow County about 2 miles north of the Kansas border.

Beaver Creek runs through about 10 miles of northwest Decatur County, while the more than 20-mile stretch of Sappa Creek virtually bisects the county. Sappa Creek passes through Oberlin, the county seat.

The positive results were made by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, after initial screening tests were positive at Kansas State University.

Because of the Decatur County discovery, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will be implementing its chronic wasting disease contingency plan, which will prompt a series of events similar to what took place in Cheyenne County in early 2006 after the first free-ranging case of CWD was discovered.

That likely will include a public meeting in Oberlin, Miller said, as well as sampling deer in the county.

In the case of Cheyenne County, KDWP employees converged on the area, going afield after dark to sample the deer herd there.

Ultimately, 51 deer were killed in that case, and samples were taken to determine if other deer were suffering from CWD. No samples tested positive.

KDWP had been planning on sampling the Decatur County deer herd in the wake of the Nebraska discovery but had been expecting to perhaps take a slightly smaller number of deer. KDWP and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission still are planning a joint effort.

That sampling is expected to take place sometime in February and likely will include both the Beaver and Sappa Creek areas. KDWP already had started obtaining permission from landowners along Beaver Creek to shoot deer.

Miller said no timetable has been set for either the public meeting or when agency personnel will go afield to sample deer.

Although Miller said he was unsure when the deer were taken, he's assuming they came from the state firearms season -- primarily because that's when most of the deer in the state are killed. Tissue samples from 2,200 deer have been submitted for testing.

The discovery of CWD-infected deer in Decatur County didn't come as a big surprise to game officials, primarily because it appears where deer concentrate.

"We're pretty sure deer-to-deer contact is a way to spread the disease," Miller said.


UK NEWS: Muntjc Spreading North

A foreign breed of deer which threatens wild flowers has arrived in the North East, say conservationists.
Durham Wildlife Trust said recent sightings of muntjac, a small Oriental deer, near Darlington and Sedgefield were "very worrying".

The species, introduced into southern England in the early 1900s, is known to devour endangered bluebell woodlands.

The trust has now launched a survey in a bid to establish the strength of the population in the area.

Muntjac sightings have also been reported near the A1's Washington services, at a farm in Houghton-le-Spring and in the Tow Law area of Weardale.

Jim Cokill, Director of Durham Wildlife Trust, said: "The problem with the muntjac is that it is an alien species, which was brought over to this country because people thought it made an attractive addition to the English landscape.

Real fears

"But as often happens with such species, they escape or are released and damage the ecological balance of the countryside.

"It happened with the likes of mink, which have devastated the water vole population, and grey squirrels, which are out-competing the now endangered red squirrel, and there are very real fears that it will happen again with muntjac."

Muntjac are small, stocky, russet brown in summer and grey brown in winter, with short antlers and a ginger forehead.

Any sightings should be reported to the trust.


CONNECTICUT NEWS: Group Lobbies for Deer Kill to Control Lyme Disease

GREENWICH, Conn. - A group of Connecticut residents is lobbying state health officials to kill deer to reduce Lyme disease

Georgina Scholl, vice chairwoman of the Connecticut Coalition to Eradicate Lyme Disease, says the abundance of deer is a public health hazard. She says killing deer is the only method that has been found to reduce Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is spread by ticks, which feed off deer and other animals. Scholl's group cites studies that show the deer play a key role in the ticks' reproductive success and is trying to inform the public and lobby health officials.

"It's something whose time has come," said Scholl, a Redding resident. "There's nothing that's been attempted that has successfully reduced Lyme disease."

Animal protection activists vow to fight any efforts to kill deer.

Natalie Jarnstedt, a Greenwich resident, has organized local efforts to oppose the killing of deer and other animals.

"It would be irresponsible to raise people's hopes on reducing the incidence of Lyme disease," she said.

Opponents to deer kills say studies show that certain mice, chipmunks and other small animals carry the Lyme disease bacteria, and ticks carrying Lyme disease will find hosts other than deer.

In addition, reducing the deer herd in Greenwich could be complicated. It's unclear how many deer are in the area.

A survey seven years ago showed that the town has 68 deer per square mile, but more recent studies show Fairfield County has about 30 per square mile. Researchers acknowledge they do not have an accurate method of counting deer, particularly because the animals can roam large areas.

Rick Ostfeld, an animal ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., said evidence shows drastic reductions in deer numbers that can lead to a drop in tick population on islands and other isolated communities, but that's not necessarily the case in wide-open areas.

For instance, on the institute's 2,000-acre property, where 50 to 70 deer are killed a year as part of a deer-management plan, the tick abundance is no different than in the surrounding areas where there is no deer management, Ostfeld said.

"Over the long term, there is no relationship between deer numbers and tick numbers," he said.