Monitoring Maine’s deer

by Feb 26, 2017Hunting in Maine, Whitetail Deer

Monitoring Maine’s deer

You could ask any deer hunter how the
herd is in their area and get a different answer every time.  We all want the best habitat, doe to buck
ratio and a very limited number of predators in our area. What I didn’t know,
is that like moose here in Maine, we have deer that are collared and monitored
in order to help biologists understand the true health of the deer herd. I sat
down with Maine’s deer biologist Kyle Ravana to ask him about the collaring
program and what he (and IFW) hope to learn from it. 

 

Where
are the deer that are being collared? And why those WMDs?

Right now, we have deer collared in
WMD 17 and 6 and want to expand into either WMD 8 or 1.  17 is good because there is usually a good
mix of snow pack levels and human population numbers.  6 is almost split into two regions; the west
that has the big woods and the east that has farms and urban areas. We really
want to get a slice of every possible habitat the deer live in so that we can
have a thorough idea of what our deer are experiencing. 

What
are you hoping to learn from the collaring program?

We are looking at a bunch of
information; winter severity as it relates to winter mortality, how deer are
using the landscape, where they are yarding up, how they are adapting to their
habitat, and where they are traveling. 
We also have 27 weather stations that we get information from that gives
us temperature information, snow pack amounts and deer-sinking depths.

What
are deer sinking depths?

Exactly what it sounds like. If we get
one or two feet of snow, it is hard for the deer to move around but if there is
a layer of crust that forms on the top of that snow that they can walk on, it
doesn’t matter how much snow is below it, because they deer can walk on the crust
and move around fairly well and still access food sources.

How
do you trap a deer?

We have a variety of ways.  A Clover trap is like a large
Have-A-Heart.  We jump into the trap with
the deer and can usually get back out and send the deer on its way in just a
couple of minutes.  The key to this whole
process is to stress the deer as little as possible.  We can also use a drop net, rocket net or a
dart gun.  Our goal is to have 45 deer collared
in each WMD that we are in. 

Which
deer are you collaring?

We will put permanent collars on does,
ear tags on bucks and for any yearlings that we get, we put on a temporary
collar that has a piece that biodegrades in about 6 months and falls off.  Then, we can go back and retrieve the collar,
replace the piece that wore away and use it again. 

How
can you tell if the collar has fallen off?

We monitor all of the collars. If any
of them have not moved in 3-4 hours, then we go out and retrieve the collar to
see what is going on; did it fall off or did the deer die. 

Will
this help you get a better idea of predation on deer?

It could.  It will let us know how many deer are dying
and what the cause was.  That information
will help us with the overall index that we use.

Index?

We take all of the data that we
collect and plug it into a matrix. We look at how the numbers compare year to
year and that gives us an idea of the overall health of the deer population.
What I am trying to do now is update our measurement tools with recent
information and update the matrix so that our overall index is more accurate
and relevant to what our deer are experiencing now and not twenty years old.

Do you use the index to determine any-deer permits?

That’s a part of it.  We manage on a WMD level so if there are high
mortality rates in certain WMDs, then we can add or take away the number of permits
that we issue per year.

Does
this collaring study fit in with the new management plan that your committee,
the steering committee and Department have been working on?

Yes and we really want the public to
read the plan and add their input when it’s time.  We know that there are concerns about Lyme,
ticks, car accidents etc.  We want to
make sure that we are doing what is right for the entire state’s herd and not
just managing the deer for hunters. We really want to hear what everyone has to
say about the management plan.

Kyle and I then got into a conversation about people feeding deer in the winter.  You can read more about that here

1 Comment

  1. Interesting stuff Erin..

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Erin Merrill, author of And a Strong Cup of Coffee, is president of Women of the Maine Outdoors, a senior writer for Drury Outdoors, a contributor to the Northwoods Sporting Journal and passionate all things Maine, Hunting, and the Outdoors.

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