March 4, 2015

Minnesota Deer Hunters Say DNR Has Wrong Information About Deer Populations

This sounds like the same broken record all over the country. If it ain’t happening where you are, just hang on. It will be soon enough.

“A group of Minnesota hunters say the deer population is in worse shape than the state is letting on.
Minnesota Bowhunters president Brooks Johnson talked about the changing landscape of the deer population as he walked through the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Big Lake.
“We’re not asking for a deer behind every tree,” Johnson said.
But Johnson says changes need to happen at the state level in order to restore the deer population in certain areas of the state back to goal levels.”<<<Read More>>>

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Maine Deer Management: Excuse Du Jour?

I was reading George Smith’s blog this morning about all the deer plans Maine has come up with over the years all aimed at rebuilding a deer herd. Smith points out, and I believe he is factual, that the number one excuse found in the myriad of deer plans as to why deer numbers don’t grow is because of diminishing habitat for the animal. Really?

I won’t deny that losing habitat isn’t a factor – and it might even be a significant factor – to maintaining and growing a deer herd. But I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I am really quite sick and tired of listening to that crap sandwich.

It’s a crap sandwich because of all the things that could be done to increase the deer herd, it’s the least likely something anybody can do about it. It’s not too far from thinking we can control the weather.

First of all, the avoidance continues, with never an answer, as to why if wintering deer habitat is so lacking why are there empty deer yards across the state? But let’s forget that for now – seeing that nobody wants to talk about it.

So Maine has all of these deer plans proposed and proposed and proposed and then along comes another to suggest another working group to come up with a plan, a plan, a plan and guess what? Nothing changes…well, at least nothing any of these people want to talk about.

Let me ask one question. What are Maine deer managers doing to build the deer herd back up? Simple question. Let’s form a list:

1. Form a working group
2. Devise a plan
3. Cry because it’s all about habitat, habitat, habitat, habitat, habitat…excuse me, I just vomited on my computer screen.
4. Ignore the plan
5. Talk about wasting money to collar 40 deer to study whether or not coyotes are killing deer.
6. Form a working group
7. Devise a plan
8. Self committal to an insane asylum.

INSANITY!

Here’s something to think about. The excuse du jour – no habitat – claims that deer can’t be grown because there just isn’t enough habitat so deer can survive the winters. So, Maine has done nothing about that and that’s not surprising. So, they wash their hands of any responsibility and decide to go study moose. Oh, but let’s not forget that token deer collaring program that might happen. That will surely put meat in my freezer.

So, if habitat is the big deal here, then there must be enough wintering habitat to allow for the increase in deer densities following 2 or 3 relatively mild winters. That did happen. I know it did. That’s encouraging so, hold that thought for a minute.

If Maine could maintain the current level of deer wintering areas and build deer up to carrying capacity, would not hunters and others be happy? Or at least happier than they are now? So, let’s work at trying to keep the habitat that exists, without becoming statist, totalitarians, and actually do those things within our easy power to cause deer numbers to go up.

1. Control coyotes/wolves (Sorry that means killing them and it has to be a program, ongoing and forget all the lame excuses as to why it doesn’t work. It does and there’s proof. We don’t need a study group to find out.)
2. Reduce black bear populations. When discussions surround coyote killing to mitigate depredation, we hear how bears kill more deer than coyotes. Fine, go kill some bears. How about a spring season? Oh, wait. Because we live in fear for our lives over fascist animal rights groups we dare not stir the pot and have a spring bear hunt. IT MIGHT OFFEND SOMEBODY. It might offend the farmer losing his livestock too but that doesn’t count? It offends me that I don’t see deer at all while hunting deer in the woods in the Fall. And while we bury our heads in the sand, the deer population works toward extirpation in Maine, while deer to the north of the state, in Canada, are doing okay.
3. Better control and monitor where bobcats and all other predators are having an effect. We don’t have to kill all the bobcat, just reduce numbers in areas where deer need help.
4. Here’s another suggestion. Instead of caving in to the political power brokers to allow them to build trails through the middle of deer wintering yards, maybe that would help save habitat. Oh, what’s that you say? That doesn’t count? That doesn’t matter? That’s too small an amount to have any impact? Okay. I get it. It’s about power and control.

If habitat is so big that nothing else matters, as it sure seems that’s the case, then how do you explain the fact that in Eastern Maine were coyote/wolf control is ongoing, their deer numbers are rebounding nicely? Why? Coincidence? I don’t think so. They are doing something about it. I think they at least understand that while habitat isn’t fully abundant, and let’s face it, it never will be again, they can and are doing somethings that will help.

Now, I know these suggestions require work and it might not be as much fun as tracking radio collars and flying in helicopters counting animals, but one more claim that Maine can’t do anything about the deer herd because of habitat and I will have to vomit on my computer screen again.

Enough already! Rome burns while another working group and deer plan is devised.

Why Maine’s Big Bucks Are Bigger

Maybe big bucks from Maine’s “Big Woods” are bigger for some of the reasons everything is bigger in Texas…including the tall tales and damned lies. There are many reasons why whitetail deer might average bigger body mass and/or antlers in one area as opposed to other places…too numerous to cover here. What caught my attention on the broad subject was an article sent to me by a reader, that talks of better nutrients found consistently in one region might explain differences in body mass or antler growth.

“One explanation for this biogeographic size gradient is that plants mature rapidly and more or less at the same time in warm climates. This means that young vegetation, which has the highest levels of nutrients, is actually available for a shorter time in Spain than in Sweden. This may seem paradoxical at first, but the levels particularly of protein and other critical growth nutrients are highest in immature plants. Although there may be several fewer months in which green forage is available at high latitudes, if animals in those regions can find six to eight weeks worth of high-protein young plants, they can grow larger than southern counterparts who may have only three weeks of such high-nutrient foraging. Protein and other critical growth nutrients are key here – not simply caloric intake.”

The author of the linked-to article believes that the deer in northern Maine are bigger because they have to be in order to survive the harsh realities of that region; climate, etc. In a simplistic way his idea is generally true. Most of us don’t have the scientific knowledge to understand all the ins and outs of what makes for bigger deer.

Dr. Valerius Geist, a retired science professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, says that usually when we see accounts of unusually large-bodied whitetail deer it is because they might be “freaks”. Freaks in that they aren’t performing their “natural” duties, many of which cause them to be mean, trim, fighting and mating machines. While for the hunter this might be a good trophy for bragging rights, I’m not sure we need to continue this genetic heritage. It too closely resembles that of Americans. It is, however, an anomaly and not the norm.

I have a very simplistic, and probably “out-behind-the-barn”, humorous theory about why “Big Woods” Maine deer tend to be bigger than say southern Maine deer. In parts of southern Maine deer can number in excess of 20-30 deer per square mile. In the “Big Woods” population densities run a sparse 2-6 creatures per square mile.

So first of all it should be easy to see there is little competition in the “Big Woods” for food, habitat and mating rights. Therefore, unlike those over-stressed southern Maine deer, the Big Woods deer have all the food they want, nobody nagging them to slim down for Fall fun and when it comes mating time, well, what in the South turns out to be a battle for dominance just so a bigger bully can have his way with the women, relentlessly, in the North it’s quite a relaxed scene. Big bucks are getting bigger, very relaxed, munching on some browse and gathering mushrooms, sitting around a campfire and knowing full well that when the rut kicks in he may only have to service a small number of in-heat does, while facing very little opposition from big buck wannabee little bucks. Sounds like the life of Reilly to me.

FatAssDeer

And this really is not that much unlike the story of Ferdinand the Bull and Little Fernie. You see the two bulls were grazing in the high pasture. Little Fernie was getting to that age where he was beginning to pay attention to the cows down in the lower pasture…if you know what I mean (wink, wink). What? I got to spell it out for you?

One day Little Fernie’s urges were getting to him and he was beginning to drive his father, Ferdinand the Bull, crazy. One day Little Fernie says, “Hey, Dad! What do say that you and I jump this fence, run down over the hill and get us one of them cows!”

Ferdinand the Bull munched away on his grass (getting all those nutrients that made him bigger than the other bulls – get it?), seemingly undeterred from getting a good meal. Little Fernie persisted.

Ferdinand the Bull finally says to Little Fernie, “Son! Suppose you and I go over there to the gate, walk through it, take a leisurely stroll down over the hill and take on ALL them cows!”

Do We Really Need More Collaring To Know Predators Kill?

CollaredDeerWhile I understand interviews with media outlets and the perpetual screwing up of a story, sometimes readers must be left wondering all sorts of things. And yes, during those interviews, sometimes we are asked really stupid and/or questions that the answer is so obvious it doesn’t deserve an answer.

Depending on what region of the country you are from, would depend upon whether or not and how many and different species of large predators exist that are ripping into the whitetail deer populations. In a report filed in North American Whitetail, Kyle Rivana, Maine’s head deer biologist, says that Maine doesn’t have enough information to know whether coyotes are causing damage to the deer herd.

“We really don’t have a good handle on the relationship between predator and prey in Maine,” he notes. “And partly because of that, we’re getting ready to begin a survival study in which we’ll collar 40 whitetails. One of [the] things we’ll try to measure is cause-specific mortality. Are the coyotes really having the impact we think they’re having?”

Here’s a suggestion. Depending upon who you might talk with, coyotes have been filling up the forests of Maine since the 1950s, give or take a decade. I can remember back to the late 1960s and early 1970s listening to outdoor sportsmen complain about the negative impact of coyotes then. It’s been 40, 50, 60 years and Maine “don’t have a good handle on the relationship between predator and prey”?

It should be embarrassing the state has wiled away its time and resources, poorly managing the whitetail deer, and claiming they don’t have any idea if coyotes are having an impact, when much of everybody and everywhere else understands the problem.

So what’s the solution? Rivana says, “…we’re ready to begin a survival study…” Save your money. You don’t need to put collars on deer in hopes you might find out what’s killing them. Predators are killing the deer. Not all of them but predators kill deer. That’s why they are called predators. And besides, if Maine collars 40 deer and finds out that coyotes, or bears, or bobcats, or lynx or mountain lions or wolves, or Big Foot, or all of them combined, are killing off the deer herd, what is the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) going to do about it? NOTHING! Oh they might toss some money in the air and for a year or two pay $200-$300 a varmint to have them killed until such time as those making complaints are placated and forgotten. Then it’s back to business as usual.

Does the new deer biologist understand anything about the relationship of predators and deer in Maine? Here’s what he said:

“In some areas of the United States, bears can have more of an impact (on whitetails) than coyotes or wolves,” says Kyle Ravana, who heads up Maine’s deer management program. “In other areas, it could be coyotes or bobcats that are having the biggest impact. It kind of depends on where you are.

“When you’re in a state like Maine, that has a full suite of predators — coyotes and bears and bobcats and wolves — you can’t point your finger at any one predator. It could be all of them combined, including hunters.”

And notice that he had to, just had to, because that’s how he was indoctrinated in his educational institution, that it could be HUNTERS that are causing the reduction of deer in Maine. Really? So Rivana, and anyone else at MDIFW or across the country that wants to say that it is hunters that are destroying game herds, then what that REALLY means is that the fish and game departments of each state aren’t doing the job that their state mandated them to do. If Maine has a problem with too many deer being killed by hunters, that is the responsibility of deer managers to reduce that impact. So, let’s quit with the blaming the hunter BS. But I understand it’s impossible to lose that brainwashing, and it might be just as likely that some environmental groups are funding the collared deer study, which means….well, you figure it out.

I’m done buying vowels and so, I’d like to solve the puzzle: Predators exist in Maine and many, many other places. They have for many, many years and those predators are growing in numbers for a variety of reasons. Predators kill prey. Deer are prey. When there are more than one prey species for predators to kill, when they’ve depleted one, they will switch to another. Predators, like coyotes and wolves, keep growing in numbers partly because there is ample food – they just switch from one prey species to another. If nothing is done about controlling the predators, there’s a possibility that the predators, in combination with other things, such as severe winters, disease, etc., will reduce their prey base so low and keep it there, they will either move on, starve or resort to cannibalism. It isn’t the responsible way of managing wildlife.

Therefore, because it’s been 50, 60, 70 years that coyotes have been around in Maine and bears have always been here and now in historic high populations, bobcats as well and Canada lynx, my solution to the puzzle would be to implement predator control into the deer management program. It has to be part of any game plan – that is game that is a food source for large predators. What’s to get a handle on. DO SOMETHING!

But no. The answer is always one of two things; form a study group or put a collar on an animal. The results? NOTHING! (global warming) Another year goes by and then another and another and the only thing that has been taken care of is someone’s pension fund.

Save your damned money. You don’t need collars to find out if coyotes are having an impact on deer. All of Maine’s large predators are having an impact on deer. It’s what they do. It’s time to do something about it other than forming another study group and putting on collars.

Percentage of Maine’s “Big Bucks” Continues to Decline

Below is s copy of a chart that is created each year by a good friend of mine. Since 1999 it shows the annual deer harvest, as provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The chart makes several comparisons, as you can see.

Once the deer harvest numbers are official, this chart compares the current harvest numbers with past years’ as a percentage of the deer harvest in 1999. The number of “Big Bucks” harvested and reported (200 lb. minimum), as obtained from the Maine Sportsman Magazine, is shown. From there, several comparisons by percentage are shown. These comparisons are based on the 2000 numbers as they are the highest reported during this 15-years span.

As you should be able to tell, the percentage of Big Bucks harvested, compared to the total deer harvest, since 2000, has been mostly on a steady decline. Obviously with a reduced harvest one would expect the total number of Big Bucks to also be reduced. But what is troubling is that the decline of Big Bucks is not proportional to the overall harvest.

But what does that tell us? The obvious would be to state that there appears to be an age structure shift in Maine’s deer herd. And what causes a change in age could be one of several things and/or a combination of them. Without all the data, my ideas would be nothing but guesses. It could be nothing more than a corrective shift downward in age to bring the herd in line with management goals, or it could be at the other end where there are just too many Big Bucks that have been and repeatedly get taken each year…but I doubt that. It is possible that in addition to a reduced overall deer population in Maine, there’s also been a loss in natural foods and nutrients that cause deer to grow large in body mass. Or, the Big Bucks are being harassed by predators prohibiting normal weight gain.

But here’s a question and something to think about. One might wonder if it is a natural phenomenon that during a period when a deer herd is shrinking, the percentage of Big Bucks would not necessarily mirror that of the overall herd? If that were true, then can we surmise that as the herd grows in numbers, the percentage of Big Bucks increases as well? My pea brain logic would tell me the exact opposite. But hell, what do I know?

BigBucks2014

Note: On the above chart please notice that the deer harvest for 2014 is an estimate. When the official number is made available, hopefully this year, I’ll post the correction.

The Fuss Over Maine’s “Endangered” Lynx: What About the Whitetail Deer?

While agenda-driven environmentalists, who couldn’t recognize an honest scientific process if it lifted it’s leg and peed on their shoes, fret and stew over the Canada lynx in northern regions of Maine, the whitetail deer is moving toward extirpation. For those who pay attention at all to history, the Canada lynx was called the “deer wolf.” Note: Post normal science and history would tell us that, like the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood, early settlers calling the Canada lynx the deer wolf was probably also a myth to scare children through abuse. Anything to protect a predator at the cost of the destruction of other species.

There’s not much sense in trying to sugar coat the fact that in northern Maine, the whitetail deer is struggling to persist. Excuses are abundant: severe winters, deer are at their northern range (although further north in portions of Canada there’s not necessarily the same struggle), loss of habitat, the pope is Catholic, etc.

And yet, as the deer population there in Maine struggles, other species that compete with, threaten and prey upon the deer are overprotected – black bear, bobcat, Canada lynx and coyote/wolf hybrids. Because the whitetail deer has historically been the species of focus for most hunters, why then are we protecting everything that wants to destroy the deer? Maybe I just answered my own question, if you follow.

Now that the totalitarians have taken complete control of the Canada lynx, there’s little now that Maine’s wildlife managers can do to mitigate the loss of deer due to loup cervier, the deer wolf. The same act of wildlife management extortion, via the Endangered Species Act, has further severely restricted trapping and so what now will become of coyotes and bobcats? I suspect increased predation on whitetail deer.

For now, Maine is off the hook as far as putting an end to bear hunting but don’t take that to the bank. So long as Maine Guides control what the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife does with the implementation of bear hunts, I don’t expect any real effort to reduce bear numbers in areas where the deer are struggling. This is where, as a matter of convenience, anyone can play any one of a number of those excuse cards that explain why the deer are disappearing. I’ll bet this is a good chance to get a grant to study global warming in Maine and it’s affects on deer. Line up!

Nobody else will make notice that the deer are, more than likely, feeling the effects of hydatid cysts on lungs and other organs, that reduces their ability to evade predators.

Maine biologists reported, albeit inaccurately and incompletely, that moose examined in portions of Aroostook County had, what officials called, “lung worms.” What the moose had were hydatid cysts, the result of ingestion of Echinococcus granulosus eggs found in the scat of wild canines. Ingestion of these eggs by humans can be fatal. The more the coyote/wolf hybrid is protected the greater the chance of infecting wild ungulate populations in Maine (deer, moose) and putting humans at risk.

Because the cysts were found in moose, the likelihood of finding similar cysts in deer grows. The last thing Maine’s deer herd needs is another enemy. Wintering deer can struggle to exist under normal circumstances but if moose and deer struggle to breathe due to cysts on the lungs, liver, brain and muscle tissue, odds of surviving the onslaught of predators goes down.

Over the past several months, all focus has been on defeating an anti human, bear referendum and now it has shifted to Canada lynx. The deer still suffers while managers hope and pray for some global warming. The question I have is what will then become the excuse for disappearing deer herd when Maine’s climate becomes like Virginia’s?

NorthernMaineDeerHarvestLynx

Because The Coyote is Coming

More and more studies are showing that the presence of large predators affects deer populations. When there are too many coyotes, for example, in an area that will not support that number, coyotes raise the dickens with deer populations.

Reading this article (linked to below) I am reminded of no fewer than two articles I have written in the past. One was in July of 2010. It was actually a republication of an article written by Dr. Charles Kay for Muley Crazy Magazine called, “Predator Mediated Competition.” If you are not familiar with that term, I suggest reading Kay’s article as it will help to better understand the issue as well as the article I have linked to. In short, predators, such as coyotes, so long as there exists more than one prey species, could drive a certain species, say the whitetail deer or mule deer, into unsustainable levels and keep them there.

The second article was in reference to Dr. Valerius Geist who attended a gathering of hunters and game managers in Virginia concerned with too large populations of whitetail deer. The article I wrote was in December of 2010 but Geist’s comment was made in 1994.

…in 1994, Dr. Valerius Geist, while attending the annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, said the following as it pertained to a perceived “problem” among wildlife managers in dealing with too large populations of whitetail deer.

“Enjoy your problem while it lasts, because the coyote is coming. Once he’s here, you’ll miss your deer problems.”

It now appears that in places where once there was a problem with too many deer, the deer are disappearing leaving managers wondering what happened. Here’s just one example of that.

“On a 2,000 acre tract of land in north Alabama, biologists at the University of Georgia’s Deer Lab compiled a different study. In the area 22 coyotes and 10 bobcats were removed before fawning season. Fawn survival increased by 250 percent.”

“An Auburn University deer study showed that trapping and removing coyotes and other predators improved fawn survival in that area by about 80 percent. The University of Georgia deer researchers analyzed 353 coyote scat samples from two public hunting areas. During the fawning time, coyotes switched almost exclusively to fawns for food.”<<<Read More>>>

The Cruelties of Mother Nature

In Northern Maine, deer became trapped on an ice floe as it began moving downstream. Of the four deer, one is believed to have made it to safety. Read more here.

St.JohnRiver

But, What About Predators?

Here we go! Whining and complaining about how whitetail deer harvests in many “deer hunting” states continues to drop. Complain and complain, have meetings and do some more complaining and yet? Not one stinking word spoken about predators. Not one.

If I keep saying the same thing over and over and over, maybe the problem will magically correct itself.

“The causes offered up by officials are many and varied including recent severe winters, disease, tough hunting conditions, intentional herd reduction, and fewer doe tags. Seldom do you hear anything about habitat and hunter-access loss, declining hunter interest, and mismanagement of the habitat and the deer herd…<<<Read More>>>

Round and round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel. The monkey thought it was all in fun…..POP GOES THE WEASEL.

Deer Season in Northeast Ends on Tough Note

“The early arrival of winter has certainly made for an interesting end to big game seasons. The snow caused deer to yard up already in some areas, and guys I have talked to have seen very little movement over the past couple of weeks.”<<<Read More>>>
SnowDepthDec15