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Bolivia RPCVs Jim Evrard and Bob Rantala are concerned about Deer
Bolivia RPCVs Jim Evrard and Bob Rantala are concerned about Deer
NORTH COUNTRY: Deer concerns
By JIM EVRARD
Most of the concerns people have about deer in our area are about deer numbers and disease.
Some hunters think there are too few deer, especially in public land, while farmers think there are too many deer, especially in their fields. Recently hunters also have worried that deer they shoot and eat might have Chronic Wasting Disease.
Still other people are concerned about deer eating their vegetables, flowers, shrubs, and trees.
Grantsburg’s Bob Rantala recently gave me a magazine article that discussed deer and deer problems from other perspectives. Incidentally, Bob and I were fellow members of an Air Force ROTC Drum and Bugle Corps while college freshmen at Superior State University decades ago and we both later served as Peace Corps Volunteers in South America.
The article, Oh, Deer, appeared in the March, 2003 issue of Discover magazine, a periodical devoted to the search for truth similar to the Scientific American magazine. The article was written by Eric Ness.
The main point of the article is that a nationwide overpopulation of white-tailed deer is damaging the environment. Ness gives many examples of deer destroying vegetation, harming both plants and endangered animal species.
The article summarizes the history of whitetails in North America from the colonial era to the present. The classic story of population decline due to habitat destruction and unregulated hunting was reiterated in the article.
Conservationists countered with restrictive hunting laws protecting female deer and programs eliminating predators and encouraging artificial feeding. Deer responded by increasing in numbers, with the population exploding in recent years.
Ness gives many Wisconsin examples in his article. One is about a stand of 300 year-old hemlock trees in the northeast part of the state. A botany graduate student showed Ness how heavy deer browsing was killing hemlock and maple seedlings underneath the old forest canopy.
Another hemlock grove contained a fence that was erected in the 1930s to exclude deer. The dense growth of young hemlock and white cedar trees within the fence contrasted sharply with the open, grassy understory outside the fence.
Deer also destroy other plant species. University of Wisconsin botanist Don Waller recently sampled 62 vegetation plots in northern Wisconsin that were first measured about 50 years ago. He found an average of 20 percent fewer plant species in the plots now. In two plots where deer were not hunted, there was an astonishing loss of 75 percent of the plant species! Some of the plants affected included pitcher plant, orchids, lilies, and trilliums.
The effects of deer browsing also go up the food chain. Destruction of plants by deer can harm animals that depend upon those plants. Small mammals like voles and deer mice decrease. Songbirds like the ovenbird and Kentucky warbler have declined. Insects and other animals are affected similarly.
What did Ness suggest as an answer to the problem of too many deer? Not expensive and ineffective relocation or contraception as suggested by animals rights groups. The author concluded that recreational hunting is the best tool for the job.
But the problem with recreational hunting is to get hunters to shoot enough deer. The buck-only laws that brought back deer from near oblivion, made shooting doe or female deer illegal, unsporting, and shameful. James Fenimore Cooper, one of America’s earliest authors, wrote in his 1842 book, The Deerslayer, that “...there’s little manhood in killing a doe,...”. Deer herds cannot be controlled by shooting only bucks, antlerless deer (does and fawns) must also be killed.
Famed conservationist Aldo Leopold first suggested shooting antlerless deer to control growing deer herds back in the 1940s.
Acceptance of the practice has not been easy, but hunters now do kill antlerless deer. Complicating matters is the present overemphasis on trophy bucks with large antlers.
It used to be that a successful hunter, when asked if he had any luck during deer season, would state he shot a buck with antlers that had so many points or the deer weighed so many pounds.
Now the successful trophy hunter answers that he shot a buck having a certain numerical value such as a 179 buck, meaning that the measured antlers have that many Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young points.
And since does and fawns do not have measurable antlers, what “trophy” hunter would want to shoot a doe?
Deer hunters, when asked why they hunt, many times say they hunt for meat, not for trophies. True meat hunters would shoot only antlerless deer since, as a rule, they taste better than bucks.
However, most hunters (and I have to admit I’m probably among this group) would rather shoot an old tough 10-point buck than a sweet, tender doe fawn.
Wisconsin now has a deer herd that exceeds more than a million animals in the fall.
Deer are all too common. According to retired DNR deer biologist Keith McCaffery, years ago when deer numbers were much lower, seeing a deer in the forest used to be a near magical experience. Now he says, deer are only exciting if they’re coming through your windshield!
Our deer management program is gradually improving and hunters accept, at times grudgingly, shooting numbers of antlerless deer as a means of controlling deer numbers.
In many areas, deer numbers are at population goals, but there are still too many deer in some areas.
Hopefully hunters will control the deer population, before nature does. The rise of deer diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease is most likely a result of an over-abundant deer herd.
Incidentally, a state appeals court recently overruled a Dane County court that prevented the DNR from opening a hunting season for mourning doves.
That means Wisconsin will have its first modern dove hunting season this fall, despite the obstructionist efforts of antihunters.
When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:
This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.
Read the stories and leave your comments.