May 27, 2015

Repeating Outcome-Based Post-Normal Science Doesn’t Make it True

CoyotesIn the June 2015 edition of Whitetail Journal, there’s an article about the affects coyotes are having on deer populations nationwide. Essentially the article is not very helpful to anyone wishing to know facts about predators and prey, their relationships, and all the things that effect those relationships. The article boldly states that, “The data shows…that [coyotes] don’t have major impacts on [deer] population levels.” That might be somewhat akin to saying that deep snows in Alaska don’t have major impacts on building snowmen in Florida.

It is impossible to draw conclusions, such as this, from a potpourri of studies from different regions under completely different circumstances, by agents seeking an outcome. While it might be useful to gain a basic understanding of how some coyotes, wolves, bobcats, etc. might act and react in their specific habitat, such actions do not necessarily trend into other zones by different predators, because everything is different and changes in ways not uniform across the entire nation.

Missing from the article was any discussion about how continued protection of predators, resulting in larger populations of the deer-killing varmints, would continue to negatively impact deer herds. Perhaps the author is a bit of a believer in “natural balance.” On the one hand the article states that, “…the impact of winter coyote predation is greater when deer are low, below five deer per square mile.” That is a fact. Possibly deer numbers were below 5 per square mile because coyotes reduced them to that level and kept them there. This is sometimes referred to as a “predator pit” – the result of Predator Mediated Competition. A predator pit occurs when there are more than one prey specie that predators can eat, otherwise, the coyote/wolf will move to another area where it can find prey. This will allow the prey species (deer) to somewhat recover before the next round of killing begins.

You will also read in this article that when deer populations are running as high as 55 deer per square mile, predator effects on deer seem low enough that managers can control the deer herd by limiting or increasing deer hunting permits. Is that acceptable?

But, don’t we all know this by now? If your favorite place to hunt has been or is overrun with predators resulting in 5 deer per square mile, then this is a problem at every level. Just because down in the Southeast, where there’s 50 or more deer per square mile, coyotes don’t seem to matter, this does little in understanding and taking the right positive steps to cure the problem.

Don’t forget! I’ve mentioned this often and will keep repeating it because it is proving to be quite a prophetic statement by Dr. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus University of Calgary. He stated before the annual Southeast Deer Study Group in 1995, in reference to their complaints of too many deer, “Enjoy your problem while it lasts, because the coyote is coming. Once he’s here, you’ll miss your deer problems.”

The article states that predator control doesn’t work and one excuse given is because coyotes are transient – meaning that if they kill all their prey in one area, they will move to another area and eventually other, or the same, coyotes will return if prey begins to recover. This is nothing new. The author cites studies that prove in the first year after substantial numbers of coyotes were removed from one study area, deer numbers, in particular fawn recruitment, increased dramatically. Over the next two years the numbers didn’t grow so much. And this is what the conclusion that coyote control don’t work is based on? I would like to know what the author expected.

The author goes on to conclude that the only way coyote control – that is for the purpose of protecting and growing deer herds, can work is, “…keep at it all the time, month after month, year after year.”

Like the Geico commercial says, “Everybody knows that.” Don’t they? They should. Anybody that I have ever talked with, who has a good understanding of the need for predator control, knows that it must be an ongoing endeavor. Deer management must include predator control. Without it, the ONLY other option is loss of hunting opportunity and eventually loss of hunting altogether, when growing numbers of predators cause dwindling game populations to predator pit levels. Is that acceptable?

If not, then don’t settle for predator protection over hunting opportunity.

An additional note: Environmentalist are always trying to butter their bread on both side. They have, historically, repeated the mantra that hunters and trappers, using bounties, extirpated or nearly did so, wolves and coyotes. In the next breath, they will tell us that hunting, trapping and using bounties not only won’t have any effect on reducing coyote numbers but will cause the numbers to go up. Amazing brain power there at work.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInEmailShare

Michigan Considers Closing 2015 Deer Season

If we kill fewer deer, will that not place more stress on limited food sources and yarding areas and lead to even more winter kill? In fact, that’s likely to happen.

Prior to settlement, the habitat supported few whitetails. Then that habitat changed, and deer numbers boomed.

Winter conditions have been fairly consistent since the beginning. Wolf numbers aside, there has been but one factor that’s determined whitetail boom or bust in the U.P.: habitat.

Source: Michigan Considers Closing 2015 Deer Season | Realtree

Maine’s Trend Toward Smaller Bucks Continues

Now that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has decided to at least release some information about the 2014 deer harvest, some 5-1/2 months after the fact and they have yet to post the data on their website, the information that was made available shows a continued trend toward smaller-sized buck deer harvested.

In years past, I have provided readers with our own graphic showing recent year’s harvest data in order to make comparisons. A look at the graphic below shows the downward spiral in size of buck deer harvested.

2014DeerGraph

Would Horace Hinckley be an OUTLIER today? His buck would be. . . .
HoraceHinkley

Maine Deer Harvest Slightly Above Abysmal

Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

Deer harvest second highest in the past six years

AUGUSTA, Maine – Deer hunters in Maine harvested 22,490 deer in 2014, the second-highest total in the past six years.

“Hunters had an unusual year with heavy snow hitting much of the state on opening weekend, and then again during Thanksgiving,” said Kyle Ravana, IFW’s deer biologist. “Those are always two of the busiest weekends of the year for hunters, and it gave many hunters the chance to track and harvest a deer.”

Maine’s November firearms season for deer attracts the most hunters and accounts for most of the state’s deer harvest (18,510). Maine’s deer season starts in early-September with expanded archery, and ends with the muzzleloader season in mid-December, providing hunters with over 80 days in which to pursue deer. The deer hunting season allows for the department to manage the deer herd and provide wildlife watching and hunting opportunity in much of the state while decreasing the deer population in other areas in order to reduce deer/car collisions and property damage, and prevalence of lyme disease.

While the 2014 buck harvest was similar to 2013 (15,986 to 16,736, a difference of 4%), a decrease in the number of harvested does was expected due to a previous winter (2013-14) that was above average in its severity which resulted in a corresponding reduction in any deer permits.

The department decreased the number of any deer permits last season by 20% in order to compensate for deer that may have succumbed to the harsh winter conditions. As a result, fewer adult does were harvested. In 2014, 4,401 adult does were harvested, which was approximately 17% below the 2013 harvest of 5,308 adult does. The Any-Deer Permit system plays a vital role in the management of Maine’s deer since it was first implemented in 1986. By controlling the harvest of female deer in the 29 regional wildlife management districts throughout the state, biologists can better manage population trends.

For the 2015 deer season, the department is again suggesting a decrease in the number of any deer permits due to another harsh winter.

For 2015, the department is recommending a total of 28,770 any deer permits. This is a decrease of 23% (8,415 permits) from 2014. Most of these any deer permits will be issued in southern, central and midcoast Maine, where the deer population is growing, remains highly productive, and usually experiences milder winter weather. There also will be some permits issued in eastern Aroosotook, as well as southern Piscataquis and southern Penobscot counties. In most of northern and downeast Maine, there will be no any deer permits issued and hunters will be allowed to take only bucks.

“By decreasing the number of any deer permits available, we can offset some of the impact of the now two consecutive harsh winters,” said Ravana.

The any deer permit recommendation is still in the comment period until June 6. Once the comment period closes, the Commissioner’s Advisory Council will then vote whether to accept the any permit recommendation.

The deer kill over the past five years includes: 2014 –22,490; 2013 – 24,795; 2012 – 21,553; 2011 – 18,839; 2010 – 20,063; 2009 – 18,092; 2008 – 21,062.

Jim Brown with a nice buck shot in Brighton Plantation, Maine 

Jim Brown, my brother-in-law, took this fine 190 pounds (field dressed) buck with 8 points on a tough hunt in… more »
Source: Jim Brown with a nice buck shot in Brighton Plantation, Maine – Petersen’s Hunting

Should There Really Be Deer There? 

Michigan considers closing Upper Peninsula deer season in effort to stop decline of whitetail population. But is that a long-term solution?
Source: Should There Really Be Deer There? | Antler Geeks

Deer of Our Future

The current wildlife management programs in America are now driven by “natural regulation” and predator protection. If this continues, the below photo is about all that will be left for people to “view” for deer in their state. Add to that, elk, moose, caribou and many others.

DeerSculpture

Winter proves tough on deer, states weigh hunting limits 

In Maine, biologists are recommending a cut of 23 percent to the state’s deer hunting permits. In Vermont, the number of antlerless deer permits is being cut nearly in half. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, deer hunting could be halted altogether.

“This last winter was one of the worst that I can remember. I suspect that we lost a lot of deer,” said David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. “Although it’s disappointing to see permits go down, I would have to agree.”
Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists are recommending the state issue 28,770 “any deer” permits, which allow hunters to harvest bucks or does. The cut would come a year after the state reduced permits from 46,710 to 37,185, a 25 percent cut that was also motivated in part by winter die-offs.

Maine’s deer herd was about 200,000 a year ago. State biologist Kyle Ravana said this year’s estimate should be ready soon. The state Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council is expected to vote on the permit recommendations this spring or summer.

Source: Winter proves tough on deer, states weigh hunting limits | Concord Monitor

How Important Is It to Know Exactly How Many Deer There Are?

I think that sometimes sportsmen get a bit hung up on having to know exactly how many of any game animal exists. I suppose at some level, knowing this makes us feel better…or worse. And, I would also suppose that wildlife biologists also get hung up, perhaps more accurately, cave to the social pressures from outside sources demanding to know precisely how many deer, or other animals, there are.

In a recent letter to the editor of a Connecticut Online newspaper, a writer claims the deer population estimating system being used by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is flawed, but the new Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) survey is accurate. Neither system is completely accurate, but the FLIR may be more accurate than the method being used by DEEP.

It is important to understand what this letter writer is saying. His claim is that by using FLIR the survey determined that in a 60-square-mile area of Connecticut, 689 deer were counted. This calculated out to 11.41 deer per square mile.

By comparison, the old method of estimating deer populations, according to the writer, had the deer population in the same area at 33.5 deer per square mile.

The author claims that this shows the town has lost a lot of deer because of hunting. Huh?

Regardless of how deer are counted or estimated, deer populations realistically do not change only the estimated number. If the DEEP used nothing more than numbers to determine hunting harvest quotas, there might need to be some concern about what was really going on with deer numbers. It would appear, from what I am gathering for information, that this is not the case. As with most fish and game managers, an estimated deer population is used only as a relative measure of deer densities. When managers factor in the realities of what is taking place on the ground and compare that with the baseline deer population estimates, then population management decisions are made.

Instead of getting all upset because a possibly more accurate counting system was employed that determined a closer estimation of the actual deer population, and because that new estimation is much lower than the DEEP estimate, certainly doesn’t mean the town lost all of those deer.

If it is determined that the FLIR counting method is that much more accurate, then there should be a certain amount of celebrating to do because more accurate numbers should make managing a bit easier. However, we should understand that even if the FLIR is more accurate, the estimate given is still just a baseline in which to operate from. The actual number of deer is all relative.

For me personally, the importance I place on knowing what the fish and game department estimates the deer population, is determined by the estimated comparisons from year to the next based upon the same method of estimating deer numbers. When counting methods change and the method continues for many years, then all comparisons must be made only within that counting method.

As a hunter, I base my judgement of deer populations in the areas where I hunt, on what I am able to visually see. If I see more deer and more signs of the presence of deer, I know my opportunities to harvest a deer increase. The reverse of this holds true as well. Is it important to me to know that technology provides more accurate counting? Not really. What is going on in the forests that I hunt is not going to change simply because one method counted more or less deer.

Each state’s fish and game biologists will make management and deer harvest decisions based on many things. An accurate counting system should make the task a bit easier. Poor management will result in lost opportunities for hunters, not how accurate estimation are.

Minnesota: Why a Deer Management Audit Will Prove Nothing

DoeDeerYesterday I posted a link to a news article from Minnesota where it appears enough hunters pestered the state’s legislature long enough to prompt them to cave in to an audit on how the fish and game department there makes decisions pertaining to deer management.

In the article that I linked to, a few things were stated that should be red flags for those who exerted enough effort to get the legislature to act. I wonder if others can see these flags.

It is my belief, based only on the information that can be taken from this news article, that any audit, as it appears will happen, is designed for failure before it starts. Here’s why.

First, is that this call for an audit of how the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), is now being prompted by “government-as-usual.” Government is usual and does little for the people or their concerns. Aside from the fact that members of this government know nothing about deer management, how can they conduct an honest assessment to determine if there actually exist problems within the MDNR’s management plans? Which brings me to the other issues.

The article states the following:

Specifically, the audit will likely examine the following questions:

— How does DNR estimate and monitor Minnesota’s deer population, and how do these methods compare with other estimation and monitoring approaches?

— How does DNR establish the state’s deer population goals, and how does this compare with methods used by other states?

— To what extent do DNR’s deer population goals reflect an appropriate balance between stakeholder interests?(emphasis added)

If we look at the issue of “how do these methods compare with other states,” the assumption is being made here that “other states” do it right. Do they? Isn’t this an example of blind faith in a system designed for outcome-based wildlife management goals from others with little or no interest, and sometimes outright opposition to, managing deer for surplus harvest, i.e the interests of hunters?

One has to have their head buried in the sand to not see the evolution of what once was fish and game management to what is collectively, through central control, labeled department of natural resources – removing any and all reference to “game.”

All fish and wildlife/natural resource departments today are heavily infiltrated with biologists, administrators and wildlife managers trained to think beyond the normal paradigm of the North American Model of Wildlife Management. It has been openly stated that their goal is to change the way America approaches fish and wildlife management. Therefore, today, most all fish and wildlife departments have devised deer management plans that do not necessary manage for hunters surplus harvest but to manage deer according to the whims of social demands.

This is revealed to us in the third part of what the article states as something that will be specifically looked at with this audit: “…deer population goals reflect an appropriate balance between stakeholder interests.”

Deer management is a scientific endeavor and should not be, nor should it have ever become, a means of performing a balancing act between social entity’s demands with varying personal ideologies and what science should be dictating.

However, even the science has changed. It is what is now referred to as post-normal and by some as romance biology. Disguised as science, the demands of socialists, through central command, have taken over fish and game management. While hunters still fund the process, socialists get their demands met and the hunters, all to often, do not.

What Minnesota is looking at, is a government bureaucracy, that knows nothing about deer management, seeking comparisons of other government bureaucracies that are all cut from the same cloth. In addition, it appears as though any conclusions that might come out of such an audit will be mostly influenced by the demands of social groups and little to do with science or American heritage and tradition.

In short, it appears to me that the government is placating the hunters because they already know the result of any audit will be only what they desire it to be. Hunters in Minnesota should not get their hopes up very high. While we should all congratulate the hunters for their efforts to at least rattle the cages of law makers, most of whom believe themselves to be a cut above everybody else, it is too bad that included in this demand for an audit wasn’t the desire to seek answers for what is good for the hunting heritage of Minnesota and not how Minnesota looks in comparison to other states.