Thursday, March 21, 2013

Its Still About The Biology

You cant fool mother nature.  Biology and doing herd counts still matter despite Dr. Deer telling us that opinion matters more.  Opinion still needs to be based on facts and science is the only way to obtain them.

Here are some notes I made after listening to the DNR presentation on the deer herd at Reedsville Sportsman's Club this week.

The notion that wolves live in Manitowoc County was pretty much debunked. While the biologist said that there is probably "not a county in the state that has not had a lone wolf passing through..." No wolf packs have been established outside of the northern range. The "northern range" was defined as north of highway 64.

In discussing deer ability to regenerate he said that deer in the southern range can explode their population by 70% in a single season.  Keawaunee County was sited in particular.  In northern ranges its more like 40%. Fawn mortality studies show that while about 38% die in their first year in the south in northern ranges as many as 70% are killed or die from starvation and such. Much of it has to do with harsher winters as well as predation but state wide coyotes remain the #1 predator state wide largely debunking the idea that wolves are decimating the herd. In the north the deer herd is in decline because the forests are maturing again after the total clear cutting of the northern forests in the 19th and 20th centuries. Deer do very well in young forests but not so well in mature woods where there is less cover and forage. (I see this in my own woods) Its also interesting that this was mentioned in the Krohl report which seemed to advocate increasing cutting of timber as a deer management tool. Never mind that the Krohl supporters have considerable backing from the Kochs who happen to own paper interests like Georgia Pacific. The herd in the south is by far the more numerous which is the total reverse of a century ago.  Farming practices that keep the land open and food available along with less severe winters were sited. 

The second thing that jumped out was that much of the recent count study has been funded by a windfall in revenue owing to the 11% excise tax on firearm sales because after Obama's election gun sales jumped yielding over 2 MILLION in wildlife conservation funding. The tax was put in place over 100 years ago by sportsman to fund such things which lead to the formation of the DNR and the ultimate resurgence of the deer herd in this state. The speaker smilingly speculated on a second windfall with all the new guns sales springing from the Newtown and other shootings.

 While the Krohl report discounts the value of deer herd counts a lot of count data was presented that showed why a lot of deer hunters might be convinced that there arent any deer. I.e. deer tend to localize. In one county example a helicopter count in a 1 mile grid of an entire county showed that in any given mile you could have as many as 146 deer while a bordering grid point could have none at all!  Yet the Krohl report says that opinion should trump counting in deciding deer policy.
Go figure!

What it all comes down to is that its still about the biology and opinion matters not at all.  However, if this forces hunters to consider the biology instead of making rash claims about how there "aint no deer" then maybe some good will come out of this in the end.

You still can't fool mother nature.

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