Thursday, March 13, 2008

RESEARCH NEWS: Artificial Feeding Endangers Deer Health

It’s difficult to argue with data from sound scientific studies.

Three Wisconsin wildlife biologists have evidence from their studies in Wood County that support a hypothesis that fed deer are more likely to transmit diseases because they have more deer-to-deer contacts when feeding close to one another. Deer may even become aggressive with each other during these situations.

If a deer disease is transmitted through the animal’s digestive tract, deer at a feeding station could become infected with some transmissible diseases without direct contact with another animal.

It shouldn’t matter if the deer are fed so they can be observed or hunted. Whether one calls it feeding or baiting, it’s basically the same as far as deer reactions.

Abbey Thompson, Michael Samuel and Timothy Van Deelen, were all at the University of Wisconsin when the study was conducted during the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 winters.

Data from this study shows that providing shelled corn to deer in troughs, piles or spread over areas, increases deer-to-deer contact rates and also provides many opportunities for indirect contacts, compared to natural browsing.

Supplemental feeding poses risks for both direct and indirect disease transmission due to higher deer concentration and more intensive use of the area, compared to control sites, Van Deelen and his colleagues report in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

In their paper, “Alternative Feeding Strategies and Potential Disease Transmission in Wisconsin White-Tailed Deer,” the researchers make their case that none of the feeding strategies they studied substantially reduced the potential risk for disease transmission. Therefore, they say, banning supplemental feeding is warranted.

Some hunters and politicians have argued that by changing how deer are fed or baited would reduce or eliminate the potential for disease transmission. They suggest that smaller piles, for example, could reduce the chances of transmission.

Not so, Abbey, Samuel and Van Deelen report.

The study was conducted at Sandhill Wildlife Area, near Babcock, Wis., in Wood County. Four upland feeding sites were chosen. Sites, where deer traditionally concentrated during winter, were used as control (no food provided) sites.

Deer populations were 34 and 18 deer per square mile of habitat during 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, respectively.

Six experimental treatments were conducted at each of the four feeding sites, including providing two gallons of shelled corn, replenished daily and unlimited shelled corn, replenished daily.

The feed was offered in three ways — in a pile, spread on the ground and in a trough.

Motion-sensing digital cameras were used to monitor deer using the feeding and control sites.

The researchers studied images, taken at 15 second intervals for 15 minutes, to calculate deer-use minutes, behavioral interactions and distances between deer.

“Deer become more food-stressed and less selective in what they eat from early to late winter and our experiment was designed to balance all these things,” Van Deelen said.

“The upshot is, relative to foraging in a normal winter situation, the different limitations on baiting, such as spreading food, putting it in a pile or in a trough or limiting it to two gallons had very minor impact on reducing deer use minutes over bait sites,” Van Deelen said.

The researchers added another sub-experiment to their study.

“Deer pellets (fecal pellets) from the area were added to the corn to determine if the deer would avoid eating the pellets,” Van Deelen said. “Relative to corn, they were eating about a quarter of the pellets mixed in.”

Van Deelen believes that if corn is on the ground and if the infectious disease is passed through the digestive system of a deer, there is a mechanism for infecting animals over a bait site because deer pellets are consumed by the deer.

Direct contact between deer also provides another mechanism of transmission.

“Abbey demonstrated that fecal-oral transmission can occur in a wild setting,” Van Deelen said. “On the other hand, when deer are eating browse, held aloft and not replaced during the winter, the transmission mechanism is not there.”

The researchers believe banning feeding and baiting statewide makes sense.

“Why would you place a mechanism of disease transmission out among healthy deer, when there is one area generating infected deer?” Van Deelen said. “If you want to protect a deer herd, a ban on baiting and feeding makes sense in the presence of chronic wasting disease and tuberculosis.”


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WISCONSIN NEWS: 2007 Harvest Third Highest Ever

The 2007 deer hunt turned out to be the third most harvested deer season in Wisconsin history, producing 518,573 deer statewide.

While the state's total deer harvest produced near-record numbers DNR experts say the Headwaters area here in northern Wisconsin was just about average compared to past years.

Last night, hunters from around the Northwoods met with the local DNR to discuss the past year and the upcoming deer season.

The annual meeting is used to exchange information and review what happened last year and how the harvest is going so far this year.

DNR officials say hunter input is vital to determine the status of the state's deer herd.

Ron Eckstein, a local DNR Wildlife Biologist, says, "What hunters tell us is specifics about the exact area where they're hunting. So from their deer stand in that perspective, what they're seeing and what's going on. So you need both perspectives, the broader perspective and the hunter's perspective to put together a season that will harvest a lot of deer and meet our management goals."

Eckstein believes this year's season will be just as good as last and that hunters around the state will again harvest in high numbers.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SCOTLAND NEWS: Animal Rights Group Objects to Island of Rum Red Deer Cull

ANIMAL rights activists have attacked Scottish Natural Heritage over a plan to have commercial shooting parties kill deer on a national nature reserve.

The environment quango carries out an annual "maintenance cull" of about 100 of the 1,200 red deer on the island of Rum, which it owns.

However, it is now offering the chance for a qualified stalker to take clients to the island to shoot 40 red deer stags. It is also inviting suggestions as to how a cull of about 50-60 hinds could be carried out independently.

It says the scheme is similar to facilities offered by commercial estates and is part of efforts to encourage economic diversity on the island.

David Maclennan, SNH's area manager for the Western Isles and Rum, said: "A deer cull has to take place. We can do it ourselves at significant cost to the taxpayer, or it can be a viable opportunity that, hopefully, businesses can benefit from."

SNH will provide the use of ponies and other equipment to remove shot deer from the hill and the use of the organisation's own larder facilities on the island.

But anti-hunting lobbyists Advocates for Animals have described the scheme as shocking. A spokesman said: "I am sure the public would be shocked to learn that the killing of deer for sport and financial gain in a national nature reserve is being promoted in this manner.

"Encouraging people to pay to come and shoot our deer for entertainment is contradictory to ethical forms of eco-tourism such as wildlife watching and photography."

He added: "Shooting must only be undertaken as a last resort and then by fully trained and competent marksmen."


AUSTRALIA NEWS: Population Explosion of Exotic Deer In Snowy Mountains

The National Parks and Wildlife Service says there has been an "explosion" of feral deer numbers in the Snowy Mountains.

Snowy Mountains region area manager, Pam O'Brien, says many of the deer have come over the border from Victoria or been released from farms.

She says the deer can devastate native flora and the parks and wildlife service has set up cameras to monitor them as it works out how to address the problem.

"There's always been deer around in very small numbers and in very small groups, but at the moment we're seeing them throughout the park in all of the different vegetation communities," she said.

"They're even moving higher up in elevation and up above the tree line."

She says remote cameras have been set up in the national park to monitor deer numbers.

"The deer will often be in the timbered areas, but then they'll come out onto private property to graze at night," she said.

"So one of the areas that we're looking for in the near future is working with the Rural Land Protection Board and neighbouring land owners that are having a problem with deer."


Monday, March 10, 2008

UK NEWS: MP Outrage Over Deer Cull, Translocation Alternative Encouraged

Nearly 1,200 deer have been culled in Richmond Park in the past six years, figures show.

The revelation has prompted calls for the Royal Parks Agency not to shoot so many of their red and fallow deer as part of the management of the herd and instead relocate the animals.

The number of deer shot has risen from 168 in 2002 to at least 237 in the current cull, which ends on Thursday.

Those which are shot include young animals, elderly beasts and those with imperfections which could lead to birth defects in future generations.

Today, Richmond Park Liberal Democrat MP Susan Kramer said she was shocked by how many deer were being killed. She said: "In my mind I have always thought it was a fairly limited number of elderly deer.

"It would be nice if people could see if there was an alternative, where the deer could be removed or relocated.

"We would all be much more relieved if there was a way of managing this without requiring a major cull."

Sian Berry, the Green candidate for London Mayor, backed the cull but was concerned that carrying it out at night may not be the most humane way to thin out the herd. She said: "It may be done to spare the public the spectacle but it may not be the best way to ensure you target the correct animals and that it is the least cruel and clean way."

The Royal Parks Agency said the aim of the deer culling in Richmond Park was to keep the population at about 650 for "optimum deer welfare". Currently, there are 300 red and 350 fallow deer.

A spokeswoman said: "The current stocking densities have been determined by scientific study and on the advice of experts. If we did not limit the size of the herd then there would not be enough food available for the deer.

"If populations were not controlled then there would be welfare issues with the herd such as low body fat, malnutrition and high incidence of death from exposure to cold in winter."

Rejecting the idea of closing the park for a daytime cull, she added: "The cull is carried out in a humane way by highly-skilled staff with many years of experience."

The spokeswoman said the deer could not be relocated into the wild and tranquilising and moving them would be "stressful" for the animals.

The park's red and fallow population peaked in 1985 at about 1,000 head of deer. A further, 366 deer have been killed in Bushy Park, near Hampton Court, since 2002.

Deer have been kept in London's royal parks since medieval times when they were hunted.


NEW HAMPSHIRE NEWS: 2007 Biggest Deer Harvest in 40 Years

CONCORD — New Hampshire's estimated 2007 hunter harvest of 13,416 deer was the highest in recent years and, when verified and finalized, will likely result in the highest "official" harvest in forty years (since 1967, when 14,204 deer were taken).

The preliminary 2007 results represent a 14 percent increase over last year's (2006) final tally of 11,766 deer. The deer hunting season closed in the state on Dec. 15, the final day of archery deer season.

"It is noteworthy that the 2007 harvest was the highest deer harvest in four decades," said Kent Gustafson, deer project leader at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. "The increase for 2007 is the fourth year in a row that the kill has gone up, reflecting recent mild winters that have been easier for deer to survive and widespread late-season snow this year, which made it easier for hunters to find and see deer."

New Hampshire has an estimated population of about 90,000 deer. The 2007 fall harvest of about 15 percent of the herd is in line with objectives outlined in the state's 10-year Big Game Management Plan, according to Gustafson.

Final official numbers from the 2007 hunting seasons, including detailed analysis of the sex, age and distribution on a Wildlife Management Unit basis, will be available in the 2007 New Hampshire Wildlife Harvest Summary, which will be published in late March or early April of 2008 and posted on this website.

The successful 2007 deer hunting season is a reminder that hunting activities are a significant contributor to New Hampshire's economy — according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 60,000 people hunted in New Hampshire in 2006, generating more than $80 million of hunting-related expenditures in the state.