October 23, 2018

It’s Always About Habitat: It’s What’s Easiest to See

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Several years ago I asked the question that if Maine’s loss of a deer herd was mostly to be blamed on loss of habitat, including so-called “Deer Wintering Areas” (DWA), then why are there many acres of DWAs throughout Maine that are now empty during the winter months or have reduced numbers of deer in them? One would think that if there’s less habitat/DWA that more deer would be crowded into available space.

I’ve never received an honest answer and know that I never will.

It’s much easier to bitch and complain about loss of habitat. Why? People can look out the windows of their climate-controlled SUVs and see trees that have been cut down. That equates to man is a destructive, non caring, greedy SOB and their actions are killing all the animals and plant life.

Of course I am forced to attempt to explain to the emotional, mental midgets, that habitat is vitally important for all living things…that is ALL LIVING THINGS. Last time I checked I was a living thing, although some mornings I wonder.

Realizing also that there are many who don’t understand that good habitat for a yellow warbler isn’t necessarily the same as good habitat for a Canada lynx. In addition, because habitat changes or is changed deliberately by the actions of man, does not necessarily mean some animals and plants die or are in danger of going extinct, as media and environmental groups state for the purpose of playing on our emotions.

In short, wildlife will adapt and in some cases certain species are more readily equipped to adapt than others.

A decade ago I wrote about predator/prey relationships, which included information about which negative influences had the most effect on prey. In other words, it is easy for most people, lacking any knowledge or understanding of facts, to continue their perverse hatred to the existence of man (excluding themselves of course) to say that hunting kills more deer, elk, moose, bear, etc. than any of the other influences. However, that’s not true, as you might discover if you bothered to take the time to learn.

If you take the time to read the article at the above link, you may learn something about those relationships. Along with your learning, you might discover that protecting habitat, believing the act will mitigate prey losses, is not going to achieve what most people think it will.

If it was a fact that loss of habitat was the major factor in the loss of deer in the State of Maine, then we might expect that protecting and or growing that habitat will help. Saying it is and proving that it is are not the same thing.

I applaud those major landowners who have volunteered to work with the fish and game people to come up with ways of protecting deer habitat, including DWAs, but doing so will not grow the deer herd because habitat is not the largest factor in the loss of deer. Understand loss of habitat may be the major contributor in some areas, but statewide it is not the major problem.

According to all the excuses, climate change and severe winters are the two items that kill the most deer. Are they? Climate change be damned. To believe that climate change is killing deer is to believe that deer cannot survive in warmer climates, when the facts are the opposite. So, then, the deer herd should be growing, right? It is also to believe that such effects happen overnight. Why don’t more people ask deer managers why, if climate change is killing our deer, that severe winters are still killing deer?

When deer managers fall heavily on these excuses, toss in the sob story of how loss of habitat is putting management over the edge, why bother to even have a fish and wildlife management department? According to what we hear, nothing about deer management is within their control. We’re all going to die!

Evidently, while all this is going on, we’ve come to be taught that whitetail deer are worthless creatures incapable of adapting to a changing environment. There is hope, however, when one of Maine’s wildlife biologists was caught saying that there is a “new normal” when it comes to understanding deer behavior. Essentially he stated that increased predator pressure, combined with the public’s deer feeding programs, have changed how deer are spending their winters. Could this be the answer I’m looking for as to why many, many acres of traditional DWAs are going unused? It appears perhaps the deer have adapted but the deer managers are many years behind.

Expending effort to protect habitat for deer and other wildlife can be a good thing. Placing all your markers on forcing land owners to protect the king’s deer, will do nothing except anger a lot of landowners.

The “new normal” theory makes good sense. The wild canines in Maine’s woods are a hybrid of coyote, wolf, domestic dog and just about any and all kinds of dogs, wild or domestic. Their numbers are probably the highest they have ever been. Combine this with a very large bear population and it makes sense that deer must adapt or die. One has to wonder what the mortality rate in those DWAs would be minus the coyotes, and what the fawn recruitment would be like minus a couple thousand black bears? Perhaps those “severe” winters wouldn’t be quite so severe on the deer.

Habitat is not everything and it is not THE answer. Get over it. Time to move on.