Monday, December 28, 2009

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Valley Forge NP Hunt Postponed

The National Park Service has called off its plan to deploy silencer-equipped sharpshooters this winter to cull the nearly 1,300 deer overtaking Valley Forge.

With a lawsuit pending and facing the logistics of deploying contract shooters before spring, the government decided to put off a long-planned hunt at Valley Forge National Historical Park until at least next November, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Bernstein told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Where George Washington's tattered troops once scrambled for food and shelter, the exploding white-tailed deer population now enjoys a generous habitat of field and forest. But they eat up so many plants, officials say, they are throwing the park's environmental balance out of whack. They are also blamed for scores of vehicle accidents within the park each year and for wreaking havoc on suburban gardens nearby.

"They cause so much damage to the environment, so many road accidents. And the roadkill — so many deer end up lying on the road. No one wants that, whether you want the deer there or not," said Julia Urwin, 52, of Tredyffrin, who supports the hunt.

After years of heated debate and a congressional mandate to deal with the burgeoning deer colony, the park service decided this fall to cull the herd by 80 percent over four years through nighttime hunts.

Animal-rights activists believe the park should be maintained by natural means, and filed suit to try to block the kill in the 3,500-acre oasis west of Philadelphia.

Others doubt the plan is safe, given that homes, hotels and malls now surround the land where Washington's Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-1778.

"The culling never works ... and I think it teaches our kids the wrong thing," said Priscilla Cohn of Villanova, a retired philosophy professor who runs a small animal-rights foundation. She argues that deer herds invariably bounce back after a hunt, as better-fed survivors produce more offspring and other deer move in to fill the vacuum.

"I'm a believer in science," she said. "Shooting is from the last couple of centuries."

Cohn's foundation has offered about $120,000 for deer contraception and fencing to protect vegetation, but the offer is only good if no deer are slain. Park officials, she said, have ignored her.

The park management plan endorses the use of contraceptives for herd maintenance, but said their effectiveness should be further studied. Meanwhile, they say the deer problem is too severe to wait.

"Our plan is linked strongly to our mission at Valley Forge ... to preserve the historic resources, the natural resources and certainly the landscape," said park Superintendent Michael Caldwell. "It's science-based, it's safe, and there's been an extensive amount of public involvement."

Deer problems plague many parks throughout the East, and similar debates about how to shrink deer herds have played out for years. In the 1990s, Gettysburg National Military Park's deer population was reduced by a hunt from 4,000 to just over 200.
In Valley Forge, the post-hunt target population is 175.

"This park couldn't be better habitat for white-tailed deer. It is the perfect mix of field and forest," said Kristina Heister, the park's natural resource manager. "If you have 1,300 deer on the landscape, I bet it's hard for a squirrel to even find an acorn on the forest floor."

The habitat loss has caused birds, butterflies and other dependent wildlife to disappear, officials say.

The National Park Service cites restoration of that ecological balance as its primary reason for the cull, with a secondary goal of reducing the risk of chronic wasting disease, a mad-cow-like brain disease. The disease has been found in adjacent states, but not in Pennsylvania, and foes of the hunt question whether a smaller herd size reduces risk.

Meanwhile, about 90 deer-vehicle collisions occur each year on the busy state road and several commuter shortcuts that dissect the park, Heister said. No one was seriously hurt last year, she said.

Logistics may be as much at play as the lawsuit in this week's agreement to delay the hunt until next winter.

Park officials had set a Jan. 5 deadline for contractors to bid on the hunting operation, and said they needed about two months after that to initiate it. That left little time for the culling operation during the key winter months.

A lawyer for the groups involved in the suit, Connecticut-based Friends of Animals and Pennsylvania-based Compassion for Animals, Respect for the Environment, said Wednesday they are thrilled by the one-year reprieve.

"The fact that they're not managing the parks in a natural way is really what's driving our concern," said Michael R. Harris, a University of Denver environmental law professor who represents them. "They're supposed to be managed in a wild state."
Harris endorses the use of coyotes — already present in the region — to thin the deer population. If that means suburbanites must learn to live with predators in their midst, so be it, he said.

That approach startles some who use the park's 26 miles of hiking and biking paths, including economist Philip Senechal of Philadelphia.

"I don't like the idea of introducing predators. I think that's risky," Senechal said.

Source: AP

NEW YORK NEWS: College to Cull Deer

Vassar College will use sharpshooters next month to reduce the deer herd near its main Town of Poughkeepsie campus — a move that has upset some neighbors who claim they were not notified about the cull until it was already set to occur.

College officials said the herd must be reduced to protect the 530-acre Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve off Hooker Avenue. Officials point out deer are harming the preserve, decimating the forest understory and making it difficult for new trees to grow. Deer also cause safety problems through car-deer collisions and spread tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, they say.

The farm and preserve, which is open to the public, is used for field-based education and research. Officials said the college received a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to cull the herd.

The sharpshooters will start their work after New Year's Day. Officials hope the herd will be reduced to about 15 deer from the approximately 100 animals living on the preserve.

College officials said there are simply too many deer on the preserve — which is bad for the preserve and for deer.

"We really have to do something to manage this problem," said Keri VanCamp, who manages the Vassar farm and preserve.

Increasing deer populations in urban and suburban areas have become problematic throughout New York as the animals become more common in places where they traditionally were rarely seen. Finding humane ways to deal with the overpopulation problem is an issue more and more property owners must address.

Full story at: Poughkeepsie Journal

Thursday, December 17, 2009

WISCONSIN OPINION: I'm Sorry the Natural World Does Not Yield to Your Wishes

Another great column from Pat Durkin

Judging by their press releases on November's deer season, be prepared to pat the hands of state Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, and Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, if you ever sit by them on an airplane bounced by turbulence.

If gentle reassurance doesn't stop their shrieking, suggest the flight attendant slap them.

Decker's hysterical demand on Dec. 3 to fire the state's top deer managers and Gundy's panicky call Dec. 4 to cancel December's four-day antlerless gun season show these lawmakers can't control their emotions.

"It is absolutely imperative the (Natural Resources) Board takes swift action to protect Wisconsin's deer heard (sic) from further harm that may take generations to recover from," Gundy declared.

The Board ignored him, and the low-impact season was held as scheduled. And what about Gundy's nonsense that deer might need "generations" to recover? Even if he meant deer generations, not human generations, he needs schooling in deer biology.

Researchers at Michigan's George Reserve twice showed deer herds capable of 50 percent annual growth. Starting with six whitetails in 1928, the reserve's herd boomed to 222 in seven years. And in 1975, after reducing the herd to 10 deer, most of which were fawns, researchers reported the herd at 212 after six breeding seasons.

But Gundy's outburst was nothing compared to that of Decker, majority leader of our Senate. Does that "D" in "D-Weston" after Decker's name stand for Democrat or Demagogue?

Granted, the DNR should stick to its harvest data and let others suggest wet, warm conditions and uncut corn helped lower the kill. By discussing factors beyond its control, the DNR sounds like it's making excuses.

Likewise, Decker shouldn't use his personal experience in Lincoln County to make statewide generalizations about hunting conditions.

"The swamps were pretty dry where our crew was hunting," he claimed. "We don't let a little water stop us from going after deer."

Bravo, sir! Give yourself another attaboy!

For the record, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported 41 percent of the state's corn remained uncut because of wet soils as of Nov. 23 (the Monday of deer season). The five-year average is 19 percent uncut. That's a lot of extra hiding room.

The NASS also reported average temperatures were 7 to 11 degrees above normal during deer season, with average daily highs of 46 to 48 degrees. Research shows deer activity basically ceases in late autumn when temperatures hit 45 degrees.

But Decker went beyond weather with his pandering. He pleased barbershop biologists with this gem:

"The DNR has mismanaged the deer herd and a new team needs to be brought in that can do the job."

Unfortunately for Sen. Decker, the candidate pool appears thin. The Minnesota DNR reported a statewide kill of about 200,000 deer, the state's lowest figure in about 10 years. The agency also reported standing corn in 80 percent of Minnesota's fields.

Meanwhile, the Michigan DNR reported the deer kill fell 20 to 30 percent in the Upper Peninsula, 15 to 25 percent in the northern Lower Peninsula, and 5 to 10 percent in southern Michigan. Agency biologists said the main reasons for the slump were "unseasonably hot weather" during hunting season and harsh winter a year ago.

In addition, Michigan's corn harvest was 35 percent by Nov. 16, the second day of its 16-day season. "In an average year, it's 80 percent, " said Brent Rudolph, Michigan DNR deer program leader. "It's likely some deer never left the standing corn."

How about Illinois? Even though Illinois lacks northern forests and severe winters, its gun-hunters failed to kill 100,000 deer for the first time since 1999. The reasons cited? Warm weather and a 33 percent harvest of its corn crop.

Despite these declines in herd sizes and harvest figures across the Great Lakes, the bigger question remains: Why is anyone surprised?

The Wisconsin DNR issued a reminder before the season — Nov. 10, to be exact — that this year's deer kill would be lower than in 2008.

In addition, the mission of wildlife agencies isn't to match previous kills or produce records annually. Their task is to manage the herd to publicly approved biological and sociological goals. For much of the past three decades, that meant reducing herds.

That the Wisconsin DNR might finally be succeeding is hardly a firing offense. The same can't be said of Sen. Decker's childish tantrum.

Source: Green Bay Gazette

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

INDIANA NEWS: State Park Hunting Totals

Deer hunts last month in 17 state parks resulted in 1,334 deer being harvested, a decrease of 134 deer from last year.

The controlled hunts occurred Nov. 16 and 17 and Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at Chain O'Lakes, Charlestown, Harmonie, Lincoln, Ouabache, Pokagon, Potato Creek, Prophetstown, Shades, Shakamak, Spring Mill, Tippecanoe River, Turkey Run, Versailles, Whitewater Memorial, Fort Harrison and Clifty Falls.

Hunters killed 42 deer in Turkey Run State Park near Marshall, 28 in Shakamak State Park near Jasonville and 60 in Shades State Park near Waveland.

Officials first opened state parks to deer hunters in 1993, harvesting 392 deer. The hunts were halted in 1994 and resumed in 1995. Turkey Run State Park has been involved in the hunts since 1999, but now deer numbers may be at a point where the park is taken off as a hunting site for a year, Mycroft said.

“Turkey Run in 2009 had 11 deer [harvested] per square mile. Last year it was 20 deer per square mile. Turkey Run is probably in a position where the deer are having much less impact [on vegetation] than they did five years ago. That park started at 39 deer per square mile [in 1999],” Mycroft said.

“We will take a closer look to make sure of this so we do not lose any ground. Turkey Run is somewhat odd as it does not have a smooth trend [in reduction of deer],” Mycroft said, adding that corn still standing in nearby property could be influencing this year’s deer numbers at that park.

The breakdown by parks shows 93 deer killed at Chain O’Lakes, 133 at Charlestown, 26 at Clifty Falls, 43 at Fort Harrison, 111 at Harmonie, 43 at Lincoln, 29 at Ouabache, 40 at Pokagon, 186 at Potato Creek, 80 at Prophetstown, 60 at Shades, 28 at Shakamak, 16 at Spring Mill, 119 at Tippecanoe, 42 at Turkey Run, 202 at Versailles and 83 at Whitewater.

Source: Terre Haute News

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

MISSOURI NEWS: Municipality Opts for Controlled Archery Hunts to Combat Deer

In an effort to reduce the booming deer population, the Springfield City Council approved a measure for controlled deer hunts on public property next fall. The managed deer hunts would be done with bows and arrows, not firearms. The proposal passed at the council's meeting on Monday night.

Skilled archers would be eligible for the hunts around the state Veterans Cemetery near Lake Springfield, and a wooded area off the western banks of the James River northwest of the U.S. 60/65 interchange.

Source: KY3

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Lower Merion Hunt Scheduled, Friends of Animals Dismayed

As a planned federal deer shoot was scheduled to begin last night in Lower Merion Township, animal-rights activists expressed their opposition and compared it to the deer cull they have sued to stop in Valley Forge.

"The ethical issues are basically the same," said Lee Hall of Devon, legal director of the Friends of Animals organization.

Although the group sued to stop the plan to shoot more than 1,500 deer in Valley Forge National Historical Park, similar action has not been taken over the culling of 576 deer planned in the next several years in Lower Merion.

A two-person team, one shooter and one spotter, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be shooting deer in baited fields on township and private land all week from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. A USDA spokeswoman said the team will return for another weeklong cull in December, with the aim of reducing Lower Merion's deer population by 100 this year.

On a good night, the team could harvest up to 20 deer, whose meat will be donated to food banks, said Carol Bannerman, spokeswoman for the USDA. She would not specify where the cull would happen within the township. She said safety and efficiency concerns would prevent allowing private citizens to observe the hunt, which Lower Merion police are supervising.

"It can be a rather quiet operation," Bannerman said.

No township roads are being closed during the nighttime cull, in which the sharpshooter uses a silenced rifle and night-vision accessories.

Lower Merion and federal officials said the township's population is 44 to 58 deer per square mile, far above recommendations that suburbs have 10 deer, or fewer, per square mile. The cull is intended in part to reduce car-deer collisions in the township and the risk of Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks.

Hall said that safe, slower driving would be a better means to reduce auto accidents with deer, and that deer ticks could shift to family dogs and cats if the deer population is suddenly reduced. Deer culls, she added, are a brutal form of population control and often kill mainly the strongest animals.

"We are affecting evolution," she said.

Hall said legal action might be considered over the Lower Merion shoot, though the township is not subject to the national-parks laws under which Valley Forge was sued. No protest is planned against this round of culling, Hall said, though her group has a plan to distribute literature and post signs at the time of the planned December shoot.

Another area animal-rights activist and plaintiff from the Valley Forge lawsuit said she was unlikely to take similar action over the Lower Merion kill.

Though "definitely opposed" to all deer culls, Allison Memmo Geiger - president of Compassion for Animals, Respect the Environment - said her West Chester-based group, which sued over the Valley Forge shoot, has not been as active against the Lower Merion one.

"Valley Forge is a national park, so we were able to join with people on a national level for support," Geiger said. "I don't live in Lower Merion, so I have very little say there."


Friday, November 13, 2009

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Valley Forge NP Sued Over Deer Management

Valley Forge is 5.5 square miles. There are an estimated 232 per square mile, or about 10 times more than the park can support. I would love to see the parasite loads on these deer.

Two animal-rights groups filed suit in federal court yesterday to stop officials at Valley Forge National Historical Park from going ahead with a plan to shoot more than 1,500 deer.

Deploying sharpshooters in winter, the season when George Washington's troops suffered at Valley Forge, "is not only an appalling twist on the park's history," the suit says, but "another sign that the National Park Service has abandoned its century-old mission to strive for parks in which conservation of nature is paramount."

The filing by Friends of Animals, a national advocacy group, and Compassion for Animals, Respect the Environment (CARE), a West Chester organization, was lodged against park Superintendent Michael Caldwell, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the National Park Service as an agency, and other park service officials.

Caldwell, reached yesterday evening, said he had not seen the lawsuit but knows that the park is acting properly.

"I'm confident in the proficiency of the plan, and we believe in its scientific validity, and we've had a transparent process," he said. "I believe in the plan and where it's headed."

Anthony Conte, an attorney for the park service, said he had not seen the lawsuit. Frank Quimby, a spokesman for the Department of the Interior, said the agency does not comment on litigation.

Park officials intend to reduce the herd by 86 percent - from an estimated 1,277 deer to between 165 and 185 - during the next four years. Federal employees or contractors are to fire silencer-equipped rifles, mostly at night, at deer lured to areas baited with apples and grain. The shooting is to take place between November and March, but administrators have refused to provide specific dates.

Valley Forge officials say the action is necessary to reduce a herd that has grown big and destructive, gobbling so many plants and saplings that the forest can't regenerate.

Administrators plan to shoot 500 deer the first year, 500 the second, and between 250 and 300 in years three and four.

After four years, officials say, they'll maintain a smaller herd through contraceptives and additional shoots. They estimate that shooting deer will cost between $2.0 million and $2.9 million during the next 15 years.

The plan has provoked enormous controversy among people who live near Valley Forge, site of the Continental Army's 1777-78 winter encampment, with residents both opposed and in favor.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court for the Eastern District, said that the park study that blamed deer for ruined vegetation was flawed, and that the law requires the park to protect and conserve natural resources - including deer.

"We want the park to just let them be," said Allison Memmo Geiger, president of CARE.

Unlike the paved roads, concrete buildings, and rebuilt log cabins in the park, the suit says, deer were present before, during and after Washington's encampment, making them part of the cultural and historical resources.

The suit claims that park service officials failed to follow federal laws and regulations in developing their plan to control deer. Among those failures, the suit said, is that the park gave short shrift to the idea of introducing coyotes as natural predators.

Studies show that coyotes can safely and effectively reduce urban deer populations, and improve the health of plants, said Michael Harris, who prepared the suit as director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver. Coyotes kill the sick and weak, but more than that, they harass the herd, making deer wary of grazing and limiting their ability to freely reproduce.

The suit said the park also failed to consider how gunfire could endanger park visitors, local residents, and drivers on surrounding highways.

"The government's desire to deploy a rifle team to war on the deer," said Lee Hall, legal director for Friends of Animals, "lacks biological, ecological, and ethical sense."


Thursday, November 12, 2009

MAYRLAND NEWS: Sligo Creek Park Battles Deer

One day in 2007, after a morning spent at Sligo Creek Park removing invasive plants so native plants could survive, Sally Gagne took a moment to look back on the acre of parkland she had proudly worked to save.

Her pride turned quickly to panic.

"I couldn't believe how little was left," said Gagne, a Silver Spring resident and founder of the Friends of Sligo Creek, a group dedicated to improving the quality of the Sligo Creek watershed, which covers 11.6 square miles from Wheaton to Hyattsville. "There were very few young trees and even fewer native plants."

A new adversary -- a rapidly increasing deer population in Sligo Creek -- had eaten almost all of the native plants and saplings.

The deer problem was bad in 2007, she said, and is worse now. For the first time, members of the Friends group are debating whether to cull the deer population in Sligo Creek before the ecosystem is ruined.

"It will happen slowly, but the woods will be gone," Gagne said. "The whole community of woods, the animals that live there and the birds that fly through."

By the group's count, between 98 and 123 deer live within one square mile along Sligo Creek Parkway between Colesville Road and Arcola Avenue in Silver Spring. Depending on the area, the deer population should be between 15 and 30 deer per square mile for the ecosystem to be unaffected, Montgomery County Parks Department officials said.

A deer-management program is in place at 19 county parks, using some form of sharpshooting or controlled hunting. The program covers more than 15,000 acres and 44 percent of county parkland.

The sharpshooting takes place three to four times at each park between January and April, said Rob Gibbs, the department's natural resources manager. Trained marksmen kill 25 to more than 100 deer a night, Gibbs said.

But sharpshooting is rare downcounty, where the parks are too small, too narrow or too urban for sharpshooting or controlled hunting, Gibbs said. Those areas have attracted deer that have grown wise to some of the long-standing upcounty sharpshooting programs, he said.

The deer population at Sligo Creek has increased almost twofold since 2007, leaving the Friends of Sligo Creek with a difficult predicament: Lobbying for sharpshooting or controlled hunts to manage deer could anger some members who say that sharpshooting would be too dangerous at Sligo Creek or that it is inhumane.

"It could end up being a lose-lose: not controlling deer and losing a lot of members," said Bruce Sidwell, the group's president.

At least part of the watershed is among sites in which the county would like to begin sharpshooting. The Sligo Creek Stream Valley Park, units 3, 4 and 5 -- the square mile between Colesville and Arcola -- is among six locations marked for future deer-management programs. The programs would cost about $150,000 and remove an estimated 355 deer initially.

The money would go a long way toward assisting a program that is "stretched as far as we can go," Gibbs told the Montgomery County Council's Public Safety Committee in a work session last Thursday. The deer-management program has two full-time employees covering 15,000 acres and was budgeted $121,000 for fiscal 2009 and $91,000 for fiscal 2010, according to a letter from Parks Department Director Mary Bradford to the council in August.

At Thursday's meeting, Council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) praised the deer-management program's work but was noncommittal about allocating more money.

Even if Friends of Sligo Creek members can come to an agreement on sharpshooting at the park, by the time a program could be implemented, the ecosystem would be damaged beyond repair, Gagne said.

She resigned from running the group's Removal of Invasive Plants program because her efforts were no match for the deer.

"Everybody is affected by it," Gagne said. "I can't imagine letting all these plants disappear."

Source: Washington Post

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WISCONSIN NEWS: Possible Word Record-Setting Deer, DNR to Receive No Credit

Do not let this record buck fool you--the DNR has ruined the herd! I read that on the internet somewhere.

A Wisconsin hunter is holding his breath and waiting to hear whether he will hold a hunting world record.

Michael Gregoire of Sheboygan Falls may break the current record for the largest whitetail rack of a buck he shot with a bow and arrow Thursday on his brother's farm.

The 12-point buck weighed 240 pounds and the rack was unofficially set at 217 5/8 inches.

The current record was set back in 1993 in Canada, with a rack of 213 5/8 inches. The state record is 206 1/8 inches.

There is a 60-day drying period Gregoire must sustain before the official measurements and scores are released.

Source: wkowtv

KANSAS NEWS: Shawnee Mission Park Cull Nets 313 Deer

Shawnee Mission State Park is 1250 acres, 150 of which is a lake. This harvest is the equivalent of 182 deer per square mile of habitat.

Volunteer sharpshooters killed 313 deer in Shawnee Mission Park last week, park officials reported Monday.

Randy Knight, a spokesman for the Johnson County Park and Recreation District, said the first phase of the park’s deer harvest has ended and the herd will be surveyed later this month to determine whether more deer should be killed.

If a second phase is needed, bow hunters would be brought in beginning Dec. 7.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

NEW YORK NEWS: Municipality Supports Deer Management

Cayuga Heights village residents spoke overwhelmingly Wednesday evening in favor of a plan to either sterilize or cull all the deer in the village.

The village trustees held a special public hearing at Cayuga Heights Elementary School as part of their environmental review process on a deer remediation plan that calls for sterilizing 20-60 does, then culling or killing the remainder of the deer. The meeting drew more than 100 people.

Among villagers who spoke, supporters of the plan outnumbered detractors 4 to 1. Supporters recounted stories of car-deer accidents and near-misses, neighbors and friends with Lyme disease, and deer unafraid of dogs or people.

Forty-year village resident Barbara Collier said she was annoyed by people telling her to plant a garden the deer won't like, because she doesn't like it either.

"I'm an animal lover, but I don't need my herd of 11 deer coming through my yard," she said.

Robert Harris, a 35-year resident, said he was jogging early in the morning and saw a small herd of deer. He continued on his path, assuming the deer would move but instead, "the deer hissed at me," he said, to appreciative laughter from some of the audience.

Villager Corinne Frantz said she spoke with her children around the dinner table about the deer problem and told them that it's possible to have strong, conflicting emotions about killing the deer, but that with no natural predators, humans have a responsibility to reduce the deer herd.

"We can cry. We can cry and we can cull," she said.

In two hours of comment from villagers, with each speaker limited to two minutes, roughly half a dozen villagers spoke against the plan to kill the deer.

Full story is available at: Ithaca Journal

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WISCONSIN NEWS: Where the Deer Are

The Wisconsin DNR just published this map, showing where deer exceed population goals and where deer are relatively scarce.

ARKANSAS NEWS: A Look at Historic Deer Harvests

From the low three figures to a steady six figures — that's the story of Arkansas' deer harvest records.

Numerous hunters in the state, sometimes after an unproductive session in the woods, many grumble that "deer hunting just isn't what it was in the old days."

The statistics are not on their side, however.

Many other hunters realistically realize that the state has many, many more deer here in 2009 than it did a couple of generations back. They may also have gripes about not enough deer in this area, few bucks in that county, too small racks on the bucks somewhere else. But the numbers are indisputable — Arkansas deer are plentiful, although not to everyone's satisfaction.

The first year of official checking of deer taken by hunters by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was 1938.

Picture that autumn. The state and the nation were still in the grips of the Great Depression. Many Arkansans sought deer for the most basic of objectives. They needed food on the table. That hunting season, 203 were checked by hunters with AGFC's representatives.

The economy was bleak, but restoration of Arkansas's deer had been under way for more than a decade, most as the efforts may seem today. Deer "farms" were in operation in several locations. Deer were being relocated to places where they were absent and had been scarce for years since the late 19th century and early 20th century.

It is a reasonable assumption that some deer were taken by hunters in the fall of 1938 and were not checked, but were taken straight to kitchen use.

The next year, 1939, there were 540 deer checked as information spread around the state about this new requirement for hunters. In 1940, just 408 deer were checked, and in 1941, 433 deer were checked.

These totals seem tiny compared to recent years of Arkansas hunting.

Last season, the 2008 hunt that stretched into early 2009, 184,991 deer were tallied by Arkansas hunters, a total second only to the peak season of 1999 when 194,687 deer were logged across the state in records of all three hunting methods archery, muzzle-loader and modern gun.

long with the outright poaching and night-hunting, is present today as it was in 1938. Unknown, of course, is the extent of these illegal takings of deer. Does poaching account for a small percentage of the deer taken each year or a large amount?

Deer hunting numbers rose steadily from the early years, especially after the AGFC was reorganized into its present form by Amendment 35 of the Arkansas Constitution which went into effect in 1945. From the 1,687 deer checked that year, the state total was 5,122 just five years later. Fifteen years later, in 1960, the deer harvest total was 15,000.

Deer harvest growth continued through the 1960s and see-sawed a bit in the 1970s as the first steps toward hunting of female deer, does, in some areas began. Some protests came forth after the 1978 season when 43,452 deer were checked. Doe hunting was reduced, and in 1979 the total for the state was 36,074.

About this time, more tailored deer hunting regulations were crafted by the AGFC, allowing for more hunting days and more taking of does in areas where deer had become plentiful. Restricted rules were in effect for areas of lesser deer numbers.

It was 1987 when Arkansas's deer take reached six figures, with 106,392 checked that year by hunters. The total dipped in 1990, again with tightened hunting rules. Then it returned to six figures in 1991. The peak of 1999 climaxed five years of impressive numbers on the deer hunting scene.

Some hunters protested that too many deer were falling to hunters. New strategies in deer management came forth, including quality deer objectives on both private land and some public land.

After a dip in 2003, when tighter deer hunting rules were coupled with unfavorable weather, the statewide deer totals have climbed again to approach the peak of a decade ago.

Source: Baxter Bulletin

Monday, October 26, 2009

OPINION: Counting Deer in Wisconsin

How many deer are in Wisconsin? It depends on who you ask. From a recent story:

A debate continues to rage between Wisconsin hunters and the Department of Natural Resources over the true number of deer in the state. Hunters have repeatedly argued the deer population is dropping. The DNR counters saying there are too many deer in Wisconsin and the agency is studying a plan to extend the deer hunting season.

The debate is not new. What is new is some vehicle collision data that can be brought to bear on the question.

Now, hunters say they have the proof they need, a study that reportedly shows car-deer crashes in Wisconsin has dropped and has been dropping for years. Joe Terrien of MJ Collision Center in Bellevue has seen the numbers drop first hand. "Six years ago, we saw at least on deer hit a day. Now we're seeing two a week."

A collision data seems like a good source of data, at least at the level of a township. But does this hold up statewide?

Data from the Department of Transportation seem to confirm the drop. In 2003, a peak year according to the DOT there were more than 20 thousand car deer crashes reported by the State Patrol. Since then, the numbers are trending lower.

You can look at the 2008 DoT Report here. I do not think there is much ammunition to give credence to the hunters saying deer populations are down. Here is data showing the relationship between deer-vehicle collisions in Wisconsin from 1993 to 2008. Do you see a trend? Because there isn't one.

What does this mean? The interpretation is ambiguous. If you think deer densities should correlate with deer crashes, you would probably be suspect of the crash estimates, the deer population estimates, or both.

But DNR Spokesperson Kieth Warnke denied the connection between less deer and less car deer crashes."I don't think they reflect a magnitude of change in deer population state wide." Warnke does not deny the numbers in the study. But The DNR and DOT say there could be other factors involved. They give examples such as the bad economy is keeping many drivers off the roads and that may be responsible for the lower numbers.

I don't think Keith is correct here, either. His reasoning is correct, but he seems to exclude fewer deer as an explanation. The ideal approach to estimating population trends should incorporate all sources of data, but of course that is easier said than done.

In the final analysis, the exact number of deer does not really matter. If you are a hunter, what matters is seeing a deer during deer season. If you are a driver, what matters is not colliding with deer. Actual population estimates are nothing more than a tool to help population managers do their job. By this measure, the current SAK model, with all its flaws, does a reasonable job. That is not to say the DNR cannot do better. However, I think this latest salvo from the disgruntled deer hunters association has missed its target.

Source: NBC26

Friday, October 23, 2009

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Noise Devices Deployed to Reduce Collisions

Essex County will purchase and install noise-emitting devices to deter deer from roadways and potentially dangerous collisions with passing cars.

The devices will be put along Parsonage Hill Road and JFK Parkway in Millburn and around the East Orange Water Reserve in Livingston, county Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. announced Thursday.

The devices, which will be purchased through a $75,000 state Department of Transportation grant, emit a high-frequency noise to scare deer and prevent them from running into traffic. They are activated by sensors that detect headlights of approaching motor vehicles.

Hundreds of deer are struck and killed on county-managed roads each year, DiVincenzo said. Several dozen are also killed on municipal roads, county surveys revealed. The county has recorded 196 such accidents through September this year.

“The overabundance of deer in Essex County has destroyed the forest in our reservations and created dangerous situations on our roads. As we move forward in the third year of our culling program and accelerate the regrowth of our forests with an aggressive planting program, expanding the use of these reflectors will be a tremendous asset to make our roads safer and prevent deer-related accidents,”
DiVincenzo said in a news release issued Thursday.

The devices should be in place by the spring.

Last year, the county kicked off its deer deterrent pilot program last year when it installed similar devices along a 3-mile stretch of Cherry Lane, a county road that cuts through the South Mountain Reservation. That effort was funded by the Essex County Parks Foundation.

The county has already requested funding from the DOT to expand the program to include additional roadways.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

NORTH CAROLINA NEWS: Deer and Deer Management at Duke Forest

here wasn't a deer in sight 38 years ago when Duke professor Norm Christensen began a long career studying the ecosystem of Duke Forest.

Now, deer are so abundant they've inserted themselves into his research. Christensen now studies how deer affect plant life just as he studies how hurricanes or climate change do.

"It really complicates what we're trying to understand," he said of sharing his research laboratory with so many deer. "But we're trying to make lemonade out of lemons."

Christensen may soon be documenting a drop in the deer population. Duke is in the midst of its second controlled hunt at Duke Forest in two years. Last fall, hunters killed 75 deer; this year, Duke officials hope to cull 100 white-tailed deer from a forest thought to hold as many as 600.

The exercise speaks to a problem that goes beyond the boundaries of the 7,000-acre Duke Forest. North Carolina's deer population has increased from about 670,000 in 1984 to more than 1.25 million in 2007, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

In such numbers, the deer are causing trouble. In addition to playing havoc with research in Duke Forest, they feast on people's gardens and landscaping and have caused 20 motor vehicle-related deaths in the last two years.

But the most popular solution -- regulated bow-hunting -- is hard for some people to stomach and has prompted public conversation and head-scratching about how best to handle the ubiquitous deer.

Some say the hunts are too dangerous. Others think they're morally wrong.

Lee Glenn fears the hunt will tear apart deer herds -- animal families that rely on each other. Glenn lives near Duke Forest in Orange County and has gotten to know a herd that frequents her backyard. They're close-knit and reliant on each other, she said.

"It would sort of be like if you had a brother or sister and someone decided to pick your brother or sister off," she said. "Just to thin you out a little."

Jane Norton, a sustainability educator, moved to her home in rural Orange County 22 years ago to be near Duke Forest. She doesn't think there are too many deer.

"I care about all of nature and think it's live in harmony with the natural world," Norton said. "I think our purpose on this earth is to learn from nature. I don't believe in playing God."

No easy way

Some say the method of hunting -- bows and arrows -- is both dangerous and inhumane.

Evin Stanford, a deer biologist with the state Wildlife Resources Commission, disagrees. "If there was an "Easy" button to push to resolve the problem, believe me, we would implement it," Stanford said. "But hunting is really the only feasible mechanism we have."

Other methods, such as a contraceptive product called GonaCon, sound more humane but are expensive, difficult to administer and have not proven to have lasting results, Stanford said.

Around the region, local governments and neighborhoods alike are grappling with deer. In Chapel Hill, for example, residents of one neighborhood asked town leaders for permission to conduct a bowhunt. At least one town council member, Sally Greene, said an urban archery program like that was simply too dangerous.

N.C. State operates six forests for research purposes. On at least one, Schenk Forest near the RBC Center, the deer population is growing steadily, said Joe Cox, NCSU's college forest manager.

"It's unusual to go out there and not see a deer," Cox said, adding that NCSU hasn't begun to consider culling deer.

In Duke Forest, an acceptable number of deer would be 15 to 20 per square mile; officials estimate the population is about 80 per square mile, said Judson Edeburn, the Duke Forest Resource Manager. They feast on plants and trees and wipe out saplings before they have a chance to grow. When they venture out of the forest and into surrounding communities, they ravage gardens.

"What people plant in their yards is just a salad bar for deer," Edeburn said.

Over time, the deer population swelled as predators such as wolves and panthers dwindled. And residential development has played a role as well, turning forests into neighborhoods.

The hunt in Duke Forest runs through mid-December. Duke has contracted with two hunting groups, which Edeburn declined to identify. There will be about 70 hunters involved; 50 will use bows while about 20 will use guns. Not all will hunt at once.

Hunters can keep or donate the deer meat.

Duke Forest is divided into six divisions in Durham, Orange and Alamance counties. Hunters are operating in the Durham, Korstian, Blackwood and Hillsborough divisions, Monday through Friday. Those areas are closed to the public at those times, though teaching exercises are still allowed.

The hunters are trained marksmen required to demonstrate their accuracy each year by hitting a three-inch target from 20 yards, Edeburn said. They operate from deer stands perched in trees to shoot down rather than horizontally. They shoot not at the flank, neck or head, but at the lung or heart.

Generally, it takes one quick shot to kill a deer, Edeburn said.

"These are highly-skilled hunters," he said. "These are not amateurs."

Source: News Observer

Friday, October 16, 2009

ILLINOIS NEWS: Deer-Vehicle Accidents Down 5% in 2008

The Illinois Department of Transportation on Wednesday released statistics showing there were 814 fewer crashes between vehicles and deer in 2008 than there were in 2007. There were 24,212 deer-vehicle crashes reported in 2008 in Illinois. The department also says fewer motorists were injured in the crashes -- 758 in 2008 compared with 843 in 2007.

Both the state transportation department and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources say motorists should be aware that deer are more active during the fall and during the dawn and dusk hours. Officials say motorists should wear their seat belts and be alert to deer on roadways.

The article fails to note the connection between accidents declining 5% and the deer population declined about 5% over the same interval.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

KANSAS NEWS: Shawnee Mission Park Cull Needs Security

Officials with the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department say there will be tight security as efforts to reduce the deer herd in Shawnee Mission Park get under way.

Efforts to decrease the deer heard by 75% are scheduled to begin by the end of this week. County law enforcement officials are being trained by special sharpshooters. The park will be closed at the time the shooting takes place.

Opposition to the harvest has grown intense in recent weeks. Park spokesman Randy Knight says the county is taking threats by opponents to disrupt the harvest seriously.

Knight: "We're certainly not gonna publicize the dates, and they have not been set yet, but even when they are , it's a law enforcement operation and for public safety reasons we will not inform the public."

The perimeter of the park will be closely monitored by law enforcement officials, and Knight says the shooters will be located in a very small section of the park.

Source: KCUR

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MICHIGAN NEWS: Confirmed - EHD Kills Over 150 Deer

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed today that a virus called epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has caused more than 150 deer to die in northeastern Livingston County.

State officials said this appears to be the largest outbreak of EHD in the state.

Residents in Deerfield and Tyrone townships have found deer carcasses in rivers, lakes, ponds and marshes in the last two months. The virus causes massive internal hemorrhaging, and the animals are overcome with a fever that forces them to seek out and submerge themselves in water in an attempt to cool off. The deer die soon after coming down with fever.

The disease is spread by a tiny, biting fly, or midge.

State officials said deer develop symptoms of the illness about seven days after exposure. Signs are: Loss of appetite, loss of the fear of humans, growing progressively weaker, excessive salivation.

There is no evidence the disease can be transmitted to humans.

However, state officials recommended residents do not hunt or eat deer they believe are sick.

The first documented EHD outbreak in Michigan occurred in 1955, followed by die-offs in 1974, 2006 and 2008. Last year, roughly 200 deer died from EHD in Oakland and Macomb counties.

Russ Mason, chief of the natural resources wildlife division, said more frequent outbreaks of EHD in the state could be a result of climate changes that favor the northward spread of biting flies that spread the disease.

Source: Livingston Daily

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WEST VIRGINIA NEWS: Bridgeport to Allow Hunting in City Limits

Bridgeport has become the fifth city in West Virginia to allow deer hunting within city limits.

City Council voted Monday to allow an urban deer hunt, with officials hoping to get it started on Oct. 7.

The possibility of an urban hunt had been in doubt earlier this year, when state Division of Natural Resources officials said Bridgeport had missed a deadline to apply for a hunt.

They ultimately ruled the deadline didn't apply to the city, and allowed the council's vote to go forward.

A consultant hired by the city estimated this spring there are 38 deer per square mile in Bridgeport.

Barboursville, Charleston, Weirton and Wheeling currently allow urban hunts.

Source: Charleston Gazette

USA NEWS: Every 26 Seconds...

More on the State Farm report.

One in every 228 Illinois drivers will hit a deer this year, according to a State Farm analysis.

Illinois deer-car collisions are up 3 percent from five years ago, a slight uptick compared with the 18 percent increase in collisions around the country in that same time period, State Farm is reporting.

The insurance agency's research suggests that every 26 seconds in America, someone slams a deer with a vehicle.

Dick Luedke, State Farm spokesman, said the data didn't break out specifics for the Chicago metropolitan area.

Illinois drivers don't need to journey far to find themselves more likely to be in the path of one of the beasts.

Neighbors Michigan and Iowa are second and fourth on the State Farm list. Rounding out the top five places drivers are most likely to hit a deer are West Virginia (1), Pennsylvania (3) and Montana (5).

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

HAWAII NEWS: Axis Deer on the Rise

A major and expensive pest has placed state lands, Hawaiian home lands, public and private watersheds, golf courses, parks, ranches, farms and home gardens under siege.

However, it is an extremely cute creature to many. A delicacy to some. And a potential lawsuit to others.

It's the spotted axis deer. But don't ask for an accurate population estimate for Maui County; the experts' answers are mostly anecdotal. However, they agree that the introduced animal's numbers are spiraling out of control.

While hunting education classes are booked five months in advance, fewer people hunt today than a generation ago. And the animals are increasingly finding refuge in town parks and suburbia, where firearms use could land hunters behind bars.

As in other states, Hawai'i has made efforts to increase the number of hunters to deal with exploding deer populations, such as offering popular hunter education classes, no bag limits, a year-round hunting season and cheap licenses.

Jeffrey DeRego, Maui Hunters and Sportsman Club president, said one of the largest obstacles to controlling the deer population — as well as those of feral pigs and goats — is America's litigious society. Rather than allow hunters onto their land to cull the herds for free, large landowners are warned by their insurance companies against allowing individuals onto their properties, he said.

However, hunting is a visitor attraction on Maui as well. The 1,000-acre Arrow One Ranch in Kula and Maui Hunting Safari offer "exclusive" hunting grounds for "free-range prey," according to the businesses' Web sites.

State wildlife biologist Shane De Mattos said axis deer have not significantly affected native forests so far, although the potential is there. Still, deer have devoured some wild taro patches on Moloka'i, which were replaced by California scrub brush.

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

Monday, September 28, 2009

USA News: Deer Crash Risks for 2010

West Virginia drivers lead the U.S. in collisions with deer for the third straight year as a larger population of the animals meets increasing traffic in once-rural areas, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. said.

One in every 39 drivers in West Virginia is likely to hit a deer in the next 12 months, State Farm said today. The probability was 1 in 45 in last year’s study. Michigan ranked second, with odds of one in 78, according to State Farm claims data and motor vehicle registration counts from the Federal Highway Administration.

“We see thousands of dollars worth of damage,” said Spyro Nicoloudakis, co-owner of A-1 Body Shop in Charleston, West Virginia. “Everybody, one time or another, has had an experience with hitting a deer.”

Crashes reach their peak from October through December -- deer mating season -- and cause more than $1 billion in vehicle damage annually, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said in a separate study. Urban sprawl and limits on hunting contribute to the increase, wildlife specialists said.

“You have deer that are very actively seeking each other out and competing with each other for mates,” said John Niewoonder, big game specialist at Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. No matter the time of year, “you have more roads and more people driving around,” he said.

Michigan is combating the problem by advising motorists not to “veer for deer.” People can put themselves at greater risk when they try to avoid hitting the animals, said Bob Felt, a spokesman for the state’s transportation department.

‘Brake Firmly’

“They end up going off the road and hitting a fixed object like a tree or a pole,” Felt said. “They get more seriously injured than they would have. To prevent fatalities and reduce injuries, we ask people to hold on to the steering wheel and brake firmly and come to a controlled stop.”

Hunting restriction in populated regions mean deer are growing more common in suburban areas, said Paul Curtis, an associate professor at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources.

“Deer are in those areas to start with, and they have low mortality because they are not hunted,” he said. “Adult does are having twins and occasionally triplets, so the population can increase pretty rapidly.”

Source: Bloomberg

Friday, September 25, 2009

MICHIGAN NEWS: Dead Deer Probably Killed by EHD

Homeowners in the area around Hoisington and Bennett lakes have discovered dozens of dead white-tailed deer in their yards and waterways over the past few weeks.

Department of Natural Resources officials say it appears the deer are victims of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD — an acute, infectious and often fatal viral disease that is spread by a biting fly or midge. However, no definitive lab tests have been conducted at this point to confirm it.

“I don’t think there’s any question that’s what it is, from what they’re describing and seeing. The problem is they’re finding most of these deer by smell when they’re already decomposing and the virus breaks down with decomposition. To confirm EHD we have to work on fresh samples,” said DNR wildlife biologist Tom Cooley.

Cooley and a wildlife technician were enroute to the site on Thursday morning with a field kit in hopes of finding a carcass fresh enough to at least be examined for internal bleeding, one telltale of the disease that isn’t externally visible.

September 30 2009 Update: EHD has been confirmed as the causative agent.

Source: MLive

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WISCONSIN NEWS: Thirty-Point Buck Bagged

Remember, if you bag a thirty-pointer, it is due to your hunting prowess. If you get skunked, it is the DNR's fault for ruining the deer herd. -TR

A Fond du Lac resident bagged a 30-point whitetail buck by bow.

Wayne Schumacher shot the deer Sunday night from a tree stand near Rosendale.

Schumacher says the shot covered about 15 yards and the deer ran about 60 or 70 yards before going down.

Schumacher noted he's hunted with bow and gun for more than 30 years and he's known people who have seen the buck but it was hard to believe.

The deer, referred to as "Lucky Buck," has an inside antler spread of 20 inches. Its field-dressed weight was about 225 pounds. Estimates are that the deer is at least 4 years old.

Schumacher says the memory will be preserved with a shoulder mount.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Monday, September 21, 2009

MAINE NEWS: Another Low Harvest Predicted for this Year

Maine’s deer kill is expected to be the smallest in at least 25 years this fall because the deer herd has been shrinking across the state.

The harvest during November’s deer-hunting season is projected to come in at 19,476. That would be the smallest harvest since 1984, when hunters bagged 19,358 deer.

To pump up the dwindling deer population, the state has issued fewer permits this year that allow hunters to shoot female deer. George Smith, head of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, expects fewer hunters to take to the woods this fall.

“We continue to lose a key part of our hunting heritage,’’ Smith said.

Maine’s deer herd has become smaller following two straight winters with deep snowpacks and cold temperatures. Contributing to the decline, Smith said, is increasing predation from bears and coyotes. Bears prey on deer fawns, and coyotes prey on both adults and fawns.

Last fall’s deer kill came in at 21,062, which was 27 percent below the 2007 total.

Other northern New England states had mixed results last year. In Vermont, hunters killed 17,046 deer, up 17 percent from 2007. The 2009 season is expected to be comparable to last year.

New Hampshire’s deer kill came in at 10,916 deer, down 19 percent from the previous year. The 2009 deer kill is expected to increase, especially in southern and western areas, where winter weather has been less severe.

This year’s deer kill in Maine could be one for the ages - but not one that hunters will like. If the kill comes in lower than projections, it could fall to levels not seen since 1971, when 18,903 deer were killed.

The smallest kill before that took place in 1934, when hunters took 13,284 deer.

“We’re right on the cusp, in that the deer harvest could go a bunch of different ways, on where it goes in the record books,’’ said Lee Kantar, the deer and moose biologist with Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Officials issue fewer permits when the deer population needs a boost, and more permits when the herd needs thinning.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

MARYLAND NEWS: Loch Raven Deer Cull Expanded

This year's managed deer hunt around Loch Raven Reservoir, which began Sept. 15 and continues until Jan. 31, 2010, will include 800 additional acres compared to last year's hunt, and will include an area accessible to disabled hunters.

A total of 2,400 acres of the reservoir's 8,000 acres, up from last year's 1,600 acres, will be open to bow hunting, according to Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works.

The city department owns and manages the reservoir property outside of Towson.
Bow hunting for deer at Loch Raven Reservoir is allowed from sunrise to sunset until the end of January and will continue seasonally thereafter.

There is no hunting on Sunday.

"I think we made it clear last year that we were going to try it out and, if it worked out, then we would open up the rest of the area that we could," said Kocher.

He said continued hunting in the area is required because the deer population is "still above a number that is sustainable."

Last year, city and county officials said a large deer population was responsible for destroying undergrowth of the forest.

That destruction was leading to a decline in water quality in the reservoir, and also starving deer, they said.

"This wasn't just a public safety and environmental issue," said Don Mohler, a county spokesman. "It was very inhumane for the deer who are starving."

Deer were also involved in a number of car accidents.

Most of the additional acreage is in the northern areas of the reservoir property.
The city also has opened up a portion of the property on Dulaney Valley Road near Jarrettsville Pike that will be accessible to disabled hunters, Kocher said.

"Basically, it's an area where we could make it easily accessible for people in wheelchairs to get in and get out," he said.

The city had received one request for such access from the wife of a hunter who uses a wheelchair, Kocher said.

City and county officials unveiled the planned expansion at a meeting for community association representatives in Towson last week.

Only two people attended and both were in favor of the expanded hunting areas, according to both Koch and Mohler.

Last year was the first year the city opened the reservoir to deer hunters
Areas around the Liberty and Pretty Boy reservoirs have hosted similar hunts, without incident, for nearly four decades, officials said.

The 2,400 acres open to hunting this year do not include some of the southern most areas of the reservoir, which are near the dam as well as large numbers of housing developments and public activity, according to Kocher.

Those areas were later part of a hunt by professional hunters hired by the county.
Kocher said it is unlikely that any other areas of the reservoir will be opened to non-professional deer hunters.

"You never say never, but never," he said.

In all, about 400 deer were taken from the reservoir area between the managed bow hunt and the professional deer hunting, Kocher said.

Source: Explore Baltimore County

INDIANA NEWS: Early Hunt Starts in Warsaw

Deer hunting season won’t kick off until October in Indiana – that is, unless you live in Warsaw. The D.N.R. declared the city an urban deer hunting zone because of so many deer there.

Deer hunting season won’t kick off until October in Indiana – that is, unless you live in Warsaw. The D.N.R. declared the city an urban deer hunting zone because of so many deer there.

So, despite a city ordinance that bans hunting within city limits, the city council has granted 62 archers permission to hunt in four zones around town.

The areas are near homes, where residents say they’re fed up with deer.

Robert Gephart puts a lot of time into making his yard look nice for the neighborhood.

"It's frustrating, particularly when you spend the time and energy to have a nice yard," said Gephart, who put up an electronic fence to keep the deer away.

Gephart uses a fence; others will be using bows and arrows.

“This is not a trophy hunt, this is a deer reduction effort,” said Perry Hunter, Warsaw’s police chief.

“I’m hoping that this year might be a banner year for us, that we can reduce the herd quite a bit,” said Hunter.


Monday, September 14, 2009

WISCONSIN NEWS: Rate of CWD Spread Accelerates

Deadly chronic wasting disease will continue to spread, threatening the state’s deer population and hunting culture for years to come, a national expert said.

“Just from a conservation standpoint, thinking about the deer herd out there, this is not a good thing,” said Bryan Richards, CWD project leader for the U.S Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison.

“People may well choose to go hunting elsewhere.”

The rate of the disease in bucks 2½ years old in western Dane County and eastern Iowa County, for example, was 15.5 percent in 2008, up from 10 percent in 2007, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The prevalence in yearling bucks was 6 percent in 2008, double the previous year.

“I think that outcome was anticipated at least by those of us that have spent time looking at disease trends in other areas,” Richards said.

A gradual increase in the rate of the disease is expected to continue in the future, he said.

In Colorado and Wyoming, CWD slowly increased in deer over time, eventually infecting about 30 percent of deer in some herds, said Dennis Heisey, CWD research biologist for the National Wildlife Health Center.

Wisconsin likely will follow that trend, Richards said.

“In Wisconsin, our state numbers are much lower than that,” he said. “But over time, there is no reason to think we won’t get there.”

If that happens, evidence suggests hunters will go elsewhere, threatening the state’s hunting culture as a recreation and boon to the economy, Richards said.

Although research shows the disease is not threatening to humans or livestock, hunters likely would not want to hunt in areas where so many deer have CWD, he said.

And, if hunters leave, the deer herd would explode, Richards said.

Overpopulation could lead to more deer-vehicle collisions, crop damage and suburban encounters, he said.

“Lots of things go wrong when you have too many deer,” Richards said.

CWD was discovered in southern Wisconsin in February 2002. Nearly 152,000 deer have been tested for the disease, with 1,172 testing positive.

The DNR created a CWD management zone to minimize the spread of the disease. The zone includes all or parts of 16 counties in south-central Wisconsin, including Rock, Walworth, Jefferson and Green counties.

The DNR wants to manage the disease through continued population reduction. The deer population in the CWD management zone is lower than in recent years, but remains higher than population goals, according to the DNR.

Hunters in the zone can use rifles instead of shotguns, enjoy a holiday gun season and kill an unlimited number of bucks for every antlerless deer they shoot first.

Officials reviewing CWD management plan

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has proposed a new chronic wasting disease management plan that aims to minimize the number of infected deer and stop the spread of the fatal disease.

The DNR’s previous goal was to try and eradicate the disease, said Dan Jones, the DNR’s CWD assistant biologist.

The strategy changed after seven years of CWD management failed to prevent an increase in the infection rate and an acceptance that the disease is not going away, according to the DNR.

“It’s become increasingly obvious that this was going to be a long-term management effort,” Jones said. “It definitely won’t be something that just goes away overnight.

“Hopefully, we can reduce it.”

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board recently tabled the revised plan and voted to appoint a special committee to review it. The committee is expected to report back to the board at its December meeting.

According to the DNR, the CWD management plan’s key strategies include:

-- Preventing new outbreaks of CWD. Stopping CWD from cropping up in new areas of the state is less expensive and less damaging than fighting the disease after it’s established.

-- Responding to new disease locations. Aggressively responding if CWD is discovered in a new area is the best option for control.

-- Controlling distribution and intensity of CWD. This includes reducing the number of deer in infected areas through hunting and other methods.

-- Increasing public recognition and understanding of CWD risks. Residents must be informed of the latest scientific knowledge and recommendations for managing the disease.

-- Addressing the needs of hunters and residents. This includes deer testing, donating venison to food pantries, disposing of deer carcasses, monitoring for human prion diseases and examining potential risk to livestock.

-- Enhancing the scientific information about CWD with research, funding for university research and collaborating in studies conducted nationally and internationally.

How can I get my deer tested for CWD?

If hunters want their deer tested for chronic wasting disease, several local registration stations can help.

Seven stations in Rock, Walworth and Green counties work with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to test deer for CWD.

Mike Foy, DNR wildlife biologist for Rock and Green County, said many local hunters voluntarily test their deer for CWD.

“There are people who do it for health reasons, there are people who do it because they’re interested in the disease, and there are people who do it because we ask them to,” he said.

The World Health Organization advises people to only eat meat from animals that test negative for CWD, Foy said.

Yet research shows the disease is not threatening to humans, said Bryan Richards, CWD project leader for the U.S Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison.

The bottom line is science is in the beginning stage of knowledge and research on CWD, Foy said.

“Why take a chance?” he said. “Let’s err on the side of caution until we know more.”

When you kill a deer, take it to one of the registration stations helping with CWD testing, said Dan Jones, CWD assistant biologist for the DNR.

The registration station will collect your deer’s head and your contact information, he said. In some cases, lymph nodes can be taken from the deer’s neck for testing.

A number is assigned to the deer, and the head goes to a DNR testing lab, Jones said.

The result of the test is mailed to you on a postcard, he said. If the test is positive, you’ll get a phone call.

Hunters can have their deer tested for free, Jones said, and results will be returned in four to six weeks.

Veterinarians will test for a fee.

Testing is voluntary except in mandatory zones, including the eastern half of Rock County and the western half of Walworth County, he said.

Nearly 152,000 deer in Wisconsin have been tested for CWD, with 1,173 testing positive.

In Rock County, 5,917 deer have been analyzed for CWD, with 70 testing positive.

In Walworth County, 5,428 deer have been tested for CWD, with 54 testing positive.

The DNR plans to sample 8,250 adult deer in 2009.

Source: Janesville Gazette

Saturday, September 12, 2009

MICHIGAN NEWS: Grand Haven Deer Problem Bigger than Grand Haven

The burgeoning deer population in northwestern Ottawa County is no longer just a Grand Haven problem.

Increasingly, residents and naturalists concerned with the problem are confronting area governmental officials with damage being caused by foraging deer. Most governmental units in this part of the county have discussed the deer situation.

Action plans being considered range from studying the issue further to actively pursuing deer culling this fall.

Grand Haven is planning another deer culling this fall after it hired sharpshooters a year ago to kill 19 deer on Harbor Island and in Lake Forest Cemetery.

And late last month, the Ferrysburg City Council agreed to form a task force to look into the problem of deer damaging the city's fragile dune ecosystem. Area townships, where the problem does not appear to be as bad, are monitoring the deer population issue.

Ferrysburg City Council member Tim Scarpino, who will serve on that city's deer task force along with council members Regina Sjoberg and Dan Ruiter, said he believes area governmental units eventually will have to take a regional approach to the problem.

"We can remove all of the deer in Ferrysburg and they will migrate back," he said. "It's obvious, we're all going to have to work together."

Scarpino said Ferrysburg's interest in the deer problem stems from the increasing number of complaints being received from residents over the damage to plantings and reports by naturalists of erosion and other damage at the city's Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve.

Scarpino, who also serves on the Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve Board, said environmental consultant William Martinus recently complied a natural-features inventory of the preserve and reported significant damage from deer.

Martinus said deer slowly have been stripping away plants that grow in the dune understory, the area of ground beneath the forest canopy. In addition, many preserve plants found in great numbers during the 1970s were not found during the most recent inventory. Martinus found little or no regeneration of tree seedlings or saplings, while remaining plants often show few blooms. Deer eat tree saplings and seedlings that are native to Michigan, including maple, oak, beech, cherry, basswood, cedar and butternut.

And these native plants are being replaced by nonnative and invasive species that deer will not eat, including garlic mustard. "There's almost nothing native in the understory," he said. "We don't even know if the seeds of the plants are there any more."

Scarpino envisions the task force reviewing information gathered to date before formulating a response, which could include a regional approach.

"We've been told from representatives that the larger the area you work with, the more options you have," he said. "In my mind, that sets the stage for a regional effort. But that depends on each government."

In Grand Haven, officials once again are seeking a fall and winter deer cull and discussed last week filing an official request with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Sara Schaefer, wildlife supervisor with the DNR, said she does not anticipate any delays surrounding the city's request, which will require specific details as to the number of deer targeted and when and where the hunts will be held.

She said DNR studies have also shown that deer are destroying natural vegetation and are eroding critical dunes.

In Spring Lake Township, there has not been a formal discussion about the deer problem by the township board. Trustee Ron Lindquist believes the issue will be brought up and agrees with Scarpino that there must be a regional approach to the problem.

"I can't speak for the entire board, but I agree there needs to be something done for the region," he said. "Deer don't respect governmental unit boundaries."

Grand Haven Township officials discussed a possible deer population problem last spring and set up a formal system to collect and track property damage complaints involving deer through Geographic Information System maps. Superintendent/Manager Bill Cargo said deer complaints are being placed on a GIS map as they are received.

The township traditionally receives about a dozen deer complaints a year. He said there is no data at present showing the township has exceeded the "healthy" limit of about 600 deer for the township.

Source: MLive

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

OHIO NEWS: Oxford to Establish Deer Harvesting Pilot Program

More than a year after first trying to tackle Oxford’s deer surplus, the city is considering the establishment of a deer harvesting pilot program for later this fall.

City Manager Doug Elliott said the tentative plan is to send 15 local hunters onto specific city-owned properties to eliminate up to two antlerless deer each. Hunters will be able to use either a bow and arrow or crossbow, but will be required to hunt from tree stands as an added safety measure.

While 30 deer might seem like a small drop in a rather large bucket, Elliott said his goal is to restore a healthy balance of deer to the area over the span of several years rather than eliminate as many as possible in one shot.

“I don’t think it will have much of an impact in the first year,” Elliott said. “I think after two or three years residents will hopefully start to notice that the deer aren’t as frequently in their backyards.”

With the state deer population reportedly surging from 17,000 in 1970 to more than 700,000 in 2005, Elliott said Oxford citizens have been voicing concern over the increasing number of deer sightings within city limits. Elliott said recent years have seen Butler County ranking among the top 10 counties as it relates to deer-vehicle collisions. His hope is to not only help lower that number, but also reduce damage to vegetation and prevent the potential spread of Lyme disease.

“We feel like we need to do something to restore a more natural balance,” he said. “We don’t plan to eliminate all of the whitetail deer in town. Our goal here is to put forth this pilot program and see how it works, what kind of reception we get from the public and how successful we are.”

City-approved hunters will be able to harvest as many as two antlerless deer, but Elliott said the first deer taken by every participant will be donated to the Community Meal Center in Hamilton. Processing fees for the donated deer will be covered through a grant secured by the Community Meal Center, with Schaefer’s Deer Processing in Trenton handling the donated meat.

Costs for the program will be minimal, with Elliott predicting less than $1,000 needed to cover permits for the donated deer.

One area resident who doesn’t seem thrilled with the idea is Jeff MacDonald, owner of Ace Hardware. MacDonald first broached the concept of thinning the local deer herd to City Council members last summer, but said he isn’t convinced the proposed program will put an end to deer-related problems.

“I don’t think hunting in the Oxford acreage is going to be effective, but at least it’ll be an experiment,” MacDonald said. “We’ve got to get in town and create a safe, acceptable, citizen-approved way to control deer. And that’s a goal that I’m more than willing to work for.”

Source: Oxford Press

MICHIGAN NEWS: Grand Haven Ponders More Culling

Grand Haven officials will hold a conference call with representatives from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources today to discuss details of proposed deer culls this fall and winter.

City officials have made a verbal request with the DNR to resume hunts using certified sharpshooters to thin the urban deer population.

Sara Schaefer, a wildlife supervisor for the DNR, said she told city officials to file an official request in writing. That request would include specific details, such as how many deer would be targeted and where the hunts would be held.

Schaefer said the conference call will give the city direction in applying for the permit. She said the city's application will be approved because the DNR believes Ottawa County's deer population has grown beyond acceptable levels.

She said investigations into several habitats in Grand Haven have proven deer are destroying natural vegetation -- such as the flowering trillium -- while causing erosion to critical dunes.

The areas of the city with the most deer are near Lake Forest Cemetery and Harbor Island -- both on the city's west side. Deer also have been spotted on the city's east side.

Schaefer said city officials have indicated they would like to resume culls as early as this month.

Supporters of city-authorized sharpshooters thinning the herd say deer populations have escalated to unhealthy levels. They say deer are destroying private property, especially gardens and expensive landscaping. They add that deer have moved closer to the city center, causing public safety threats to drivers and residents.

Others fear the deer will bring disease-carrying ticks into the city, making it a public health issue as well.

"As far as the DNR is concerned, this is not about flowers in people's yards. This is about protecting natural resources -- especially the critical dunes, forest areas and green space," Schaefer said.

Last fall, sharpshooters killed 19 deer on Harbor Island and in Lake Forest Cemetery during separate hunts. The city's public safety department closed both public areas during the hunts.

Still, opponents say the hunts aren't safe because of nearby residential neighborhoods. In an attempt to save the deer during last year's hunt at the cemetery, several residents showed up banging pots and pans and honking car horns.

Source: MLive

VIRGINIA NEWS: Municipal Bow Hunt Debated

Tired of the damage and disease associated with an exploding white-tailed deer population, a Leesburg neighborhood will begin allowing bow hunting of deer when hunting season begins this month.

Homeowners in Beacon Hill, a sprawling neighborhood of more than 200 houses, have long complained of deer trampling manicured lawns, eating flowers and ruining community landscaping. They also have expressed concern about the spread of deer ticks that carry Lyme disease.

The board of directors of the Beacon Hill homeowners association voted Monday to permit bow hunting of deer in four wooded common areas during the legal hunting season, from Sept. 5 to Nov. 13.

But a neighboring equestrian center, which shares a trail and common space with Beacon Hill, has expressed concerns about safety. The owners and clients of Clairvaux at Beacon Hill said they fear that horses could be mistaken for deer.

"I envision little girls on little ponies getting shot at," said Terri Young, the owner of Clairvaux. "Or what happens if a hunter misses and there is a deer running around with [an arrow] stuck in it to horrify the kids?"

Beacon Hill is one of a number of Washington area communities that permit bow hunting to control the growing deer population. Montgomery County, for instance, last year relaxed its rules on bow and shotgun hunting.

Beacon Hill is negotiating with Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia, professional bow hunters who have worked for other communities and private landowners, said Pia Trigiani, the association's attorney. The company's hunters would shoot deer from elevated tree stands, she said.

The tree stands would be at least 150 feet away from any private property not participating in the program and 30 yards from the shared equestrian trail. Hunting would be limited to the four areas, where deer tend to gather, Trigiani said.

In looking at the four areas, the board has considered safety, the proximity to other lots and "where the thinning would be most productive," she said.

Trigiani noted that the association held a community-wide meeting in March at which professional bow hunters briefed residents. Since then, she said, the board has listened to supporters and opponents of bow hunting and has carefully considered the issue.

"This is a last resort for the association," Trigiani said. "It's a measured response. It's not a knee-jerk reaction."

The vast majority of Beacon Hill homeowners support bow hunting of deer. But residents who oppose it said the community could be sued if a hunter accidentally hits a person or a horse.

"We're just concerned about the liability . . . and the safety of the kids, the horses and anybody else," said Lisa Thompson, a Beacon Hill homeowner and mother of two teenage girls who ride horses that are boarded at the equestrian center.

Young, the owner of the equestrian center, said she is concerned about the effect bow hunting will have on her business. "I don't know what our options are at that point," she said. "I have already spoken to our attorney about it."

Trigiani said the board weighed the risks associated with bow hunting on residential land and spoke with three Fairfax County homeowners associations that permit bow hunting.

"They have to balance all of the sides of the issue and come up with the best decisions," Trigiani said. "I think this board has done that, and I think it will stand judicial scrutiny."

Beacon Hill homeowner Stephen Cloud, who supports bow hunting of deer, said that he has tried spraying his flowers and plants with deer-repellant chemicals but that the effectiveness doesn't last.

"I don't plant many flowers anymore because [the deer] eat them all," he said.

Source: Washington Post

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

RESEARCH NEWS: Four-Posters Reduce Numbers of Lyme-Carrying Ticks 71%

A device called the "4-poster" Deer Treatment Bait Station, developed and patented by scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), was highly effective at reducing the number of ticks infected with the Lyme disease bacterium in a six-year U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study in five Northeastern states—Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island—where the disease is endemic.

In the $2.1 million USDA Northeast Areawide Tick Control Project, investigators noted a 71 percent overall reduction in the number of ticks infected with the Lyme disease bacterium during summer months when most people get the disease. If the 4-poster is used in areas where the disease is endemic, this should translate to a corresponding 71 percent decrease in Lyme disease cases, according to Durland Fish, a professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health and principal investigator for the project. The effectiveness of the 4-poster ranged from 60 to 82 percent among the seven individual 2-square-mile study sites.

The device is a bin that contains corn, with insecticide-laden paint rollers mounted at the bin's corners. When a deer-the primary carrier of the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, which carries the Lyme disease bacterium—inserts its muzzle into the bin to feed, it must rub its head, neck and ears against the insecticide-treated rollers. When the deer subsequently grooms itself, the insecticide is spread enough to protect the animal's entire body.

Developed by ARS scientists at the agency's Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory in Kerrville, Texas, the 4-poster's efficacy could be boosted to more than 90 percent by using newer, more effective insecticides that were not available at the start of the USDA study, according to J. Mathews Pound, an entomologist at the Kerrville laboratory and a co-investigator on the study.

The results of the study have been published in a series of 11 papers in the August 2009 issue of the medical journal Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases. The articles are available free online.

Source: USDA-ARS

MICHIGAN NEWS: Deer Populations Grow, Native Plants Disappear Garlic Mustard Invades Dune Ecosystem

A burgeoning deer population is threatening the delicate ecosystem of a protected, 115-acre dunes area in southwestern Michigan.

The city of Ferrysburg has formed an ad-hoc committee to look into the problem. Councilman Tim Scarpino, a committee member, said he wants all options -- including culling the herd -- left on the table.

"The less that is done now, the more that will have to be done later," he said.

There appear to be more deer than ever roaming the Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve, which is in the neighboring city of Grand Haven but owned by Ferrysburg. The animals are feasting on several rare, native plants and their paths are eroding the landscape of the dunes, Scarpino said.

Deer have been slowly stripping the plants that grow in the dunes' understory, the area of ground beneath its forest canopy, said William Martinus, an environmental consultant who has compiled natural-features inventories for the preserve.

Many plants found there in great numbers during the 1970s were not seen during a recent search, Martinus said. There is little to no regeneration of tree seedlings or saplings, while remaining plants often show few blooms.

"There's almost nothing native in the understory," he told the Grand Haven Tribune for a story published Monday. "We don't even know if the seeds of the plants are there anymore."

The deer eat tree saplings and seedlings that are native to Michigan, including maple, oak, beech, cherry, basswood, cedar and butternut, he said.

The native plants are being replaced by nonnative and often invasive species that the deer won't eat. Species that are moving in include garlic mustard, a plant that stifles tree growth, Martinus said.

Reducing the herd is one way to help native plants return to the preserve, he said.

There are several ways to do shrink deer herds but the most effective can be some combination of methods that include fencing, scent repellents, scare tactics and a controlled hunt, said Nik Kalejs, a wildlife habitat biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Source: Chicago Tribune

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Newark Considers Urban Deer Cull

Newark soon might follow in Granville and Heath's footsteps and establish a program to eliminate deer within the city.

Monday, Newark City Council's Service Committee listened to a presentation by Granville Clerk of Council Mollie Prasher to stimulate ideas.

"It has become an issue not just of inconvenience but of appropriate stewardship. My personal opinion is we are being good stewards of the earth by addressing this issue," Prasher said referring to the overpopulation of deer because of a lack of a natural predator and the resulting possibility of disease.

The council has heard complaints from Newark residents for several years about the number of deer and the resulting damage to property and car crashes. Many council members have wanted to approve bowhunting within the city but have been met with resistance from residents who don't want hunting near their home. The discussion never has moved into a solid proposal, however.

No specifics were discussed Monday, but Newark residents have been encouraged to add their name to a list if they are willing to allow hunting on their property.

Granville will enter its third season permitting bowhunting within the city this year. Last year, 95 deer were recorded as killed as a result of the program, 20 of which were shot on a single property.

One of the keys, Prasher said, is the hunters and property owners always have contact with one another before the hunter enters a property. Many owners ask for specific hunters.

"You have to know who is coming on to your property with a weapon," Prasher said.

Before hunters are approved, they must pass a background check and pass a proficiency test.

Prasher said she has developed zones, made up of groups of property owners, and each hunter is assigned to a zone for 13 days at a time. Hunters are provided with a parking permit, an aerial map of the area, a plat map and a card to identify themselves.

"I have had no residents call in to complain," Prasher said. "I don't think everyone (in Granville) is happy we are hunting, but they are tolerating it."

Granville also pays for the meat to be processed and donates any the hunter does not wish to keep.

Several Newark residents also supported action because of the property damage they had experienced or because of the effects on the deer of overpopulation.

One resident said he has seen as many as 23 deer in his yard at one time.

Source: Newark Advocate

VIRGINIA NEWS: Seasonal Deer Feeding Ban Begins

Starting today, it is illegal to feed deer in Virginia, according to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The annual prohibition, part of a 2006 regulation, is part of an effort to keep Virginia's deer population in check. The no-feeding rule will remain in place through the first Saturday in January, according to the department.

The regulation does not restrict the planting of crops, wildlife food plots or backyard and schoolyard habitats. Rather, it is aimed at the artificial feeding of deer, which can unnaturally increase the deer population.

Deer will take advantage of birdfeeders and will eat spilled seed. Individuals who inadvertently feed deer through their birdfeeders may be asked to temporarily take their feeders down, according to a department release.

An overabundance of deer can lead to damage to natural habitats and inappropriate "taming" of wildlife. It also can lead to increased human-deer conflicts, including vehicle collisions and disease transmission, such as tuberculosis and other deer ailments.

Many people feed deer because they believe it will keep them from starving, but deer die-offs due to starvation are practically nonexistent in Virginia, said Matt Knox and Nelson Lafon, VDGIF Deer Project coordinators, in a statement.

"We do not need more deer in Virginia," Lafon said. "In fact, we need fewer deer in many parts of the state."

Harrisonburg has used police snipers to thin the city's deer herd. Recently, city officials said they are considering allowing archery on a limited basis to control the deer population.

Based on a 2007 survey, most Virginians would like to see deer populations decrease through much of the state, the release said.

Source: Rocktown Weekly

Monday, August 31, 2009

MICHIGAN NEWS: Bill Introduced to Expand Damage Shooting Permits

One of Michigan’s top industries is taking a hit from a growing problem, and state Rep. John Proos is working to address the issue.

Proos has introduced House Bill 5309 to allow farmers to address the increasing deer population and take more nuisance deer that disrupt and destroy crops.

“Michigan farmers are facing unprecedented struggles in this rough economy, and this simple preventative measure will go a long way in protecting crops,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “This is both a local issue and a statewide economic issue, and here is a simple fix for a growing problem.”

Proos said that current law still leaves crops largely unprotected. Under current law, farmers are able to obtain a deer damage shooting permit as a result of nursery or crop loss, which allows them to take nuisance deer responsible for damaging crops.

Proos’ legislation increases the number of authorized shooters that may be included under a deer damage shooting permit from three to 15.

Source: WLKM

WASHINGTON DC NEWS: Hunt in Rock Creek National Park Considered

The National Park Service is eyeing the use of sharpshooters and other lethal action as the most effective means to quickly cull the growing white-tail deer population in Rock Creek Park.

Hundreds of deer -- roughly 82 per square mile -- roam the 2,900-acre park, the park service reports in a 400-page environmental impact statement, which sets out the lethal and nonlethal options for controlling deer numbers. The herd often wanders off the reservation, onto neighboring roads, into residents' yards and occasionally through plate glass windows.

The park service is lobbying for immediate action as white-tail deer are fast becoming the dominant force in the park's ecosystem. The deer are destroying native vegetation, competing with other wildlife for limited food resources, and increasingly are posing a hazard to drivers.

The EIS, the subject of a scheduled public meeting Wednesday, offers four alternatives for reducing the deer population:

» A do-nothing option
» Surgical and chemical sterilization and "large fenced areas"
» Sharpshooters and euthanization
» A combination of the latter two choices

Killing deer via sharpshooting and euthanasia would allow the forest to regenerate, "improving habitat and reducing impacts of overbrowsing," according to the park service document. The hunts, performed primarily at night during late fall and winter months, would entail "trained sharpshooters" using rifles or bow and arrow.
The meat, the NPS said, would be donated to local charitable organizations for consumption "to the maximum extent possible."

Opinions vary on controlled hunts as a viable practice inside the District.
Though killing deer is a "heart wrenching decision," an overpopulation of any single species "wreaks havoc in so many ways," said Jane Solomon, a conservation biologist who lives just west of Rock Creek Park.

"It's unpopular," said Solomon, a Forest Hills advisory neighborhood commissioner. "They're beautiful animals. We all love them, but the population's too large. I wouldn't be opposed to either some form of euthanization or lethal means."
Deer are a "nuisance and vexatious," said D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson. But sterilization, he said, is the best practice.

"It's not hard to find them to do the sterilization," Mendelson said. "It's certainly a more humane approach and far less controversial than sharpshooting."

The park service "is looking to hunt" rather than investigating options like reflectors, flashing lights, controlled vegetation and devices that scare deer away from roads and residences, said Scott Giacoppo, chief programs officer with the Washington Humane Society. Deer kills, he said, are "proven not to work."

"I personally wouldn't get involved in something like that," said Charles Rogers, president of the Woodbridge-based National Sportsman Association. "It's sort of like shooting fish in a barrel."

Source: Washington Examiner