June 17, 2019

When Deer Management Seems Stupid

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According to an article published at the Bangor Daily News website, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) are in the fifth year of a deer collaring study. Most of us know that MDIFW has been extremely secretive about the study and any results they have received and collected from this effort.

The article states the following: “At this point, Bieber is still in the data-gathering phase of the study, which has been aided by the cooperation of the University of Maine, the University of New Brunswick, J.D. Irving Ltd., the Passamaquoddy Nation and the Quality Deer Management Association.

He looks forward to a time when the department can use the data that is being collected to formulate management decisions. To date, the data that has been gathered in the GPS study has not been utilized in management efforts.

“Every year when we allocate for [any-deer] permits, we do make adjustments based on winter severity. It’ll be nice to be able to look back on what we’ve done in the past and see if those decisions were sound. And if not, we’ll be able to adjust according to the data that we have now,” Bieber said.”

Does this make much of sense? Why would the gathering of data for at least 4 years be disregarded in any deer management decisions? The last paragraph says that when the MDIFW allocates “Any-Deer Permits” (ADP) they make adjustments based on “winter severity.” And yet this study is mostly aimed at determining the affects of winter severity as well as other mortality causes.

This past deer hunting season, the state allocated a record number of ADPs, and now we are learning the decision to do so was NOT based at all on any data obtained over the past 4 years from their study on the effects of winter severity? Why does that not make much sense at all?

For those who spend a great deal of time studying and following such things as deer management, it’s easy to determine that management decisions made at the department level run a minimum of three years behind actual events taking place on the ground. This effort not only substantiates that claim but extends that fault out to at least five years. Isn’t that one of the biggest problems with game management? Of course it is. And yet, the MDIFW has at least four years of winter severity data on whitetail deer and according to Maine’s head deer biologist, none of that data is being used and was not used in deciding to allot a record number of ADPs for last deer hunting season.

We live in an era of instant information availability. How many decades has it taken the MDIFW to take advantage of this reality to finally put together a digital, online tagging system that gives managers instant data? And now, managers are receiving real time data from their collaring study and for at least four years are not using the data. How many decades will it take at the conclusion of this study before any of that data will be implemented into management decisions?

Perhaps all of the decisions made for managing deer are based solely on social demands with no consideration for scientific data. If so, why doesn’t MDIFW stop wasting their time and our money with senseless “studies?”

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