Michael A. Sawyers
A study completed in 2013 by a master’s degree candidate at the University of Delaware showed that there are 20 to 30 deer per square mile on the Green Ridge State Forest, including some pretty darn nice bucks.
Jake Haus placed 20 trail cameras. Each camera was on a 250-acre block of forest and active for two weeks in August 2012, two weeks in February 2013 and two weeks in August 2013.
Haus used two other methods in an effort to determine deer density on the public land: spotlight surveys and infrared surveys.
“His study was part of our deer management in the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area,” said Brian Eyler, deer project leader for the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service.
Two deer from eastern Allegany County have been confirmed to have the disease.
“We know we can’t eliminate CWD, so we have to manage for it,” Eyler said. “We know it is spread by deer-to-deer contact, so we can eliminate baiting to keep deer separated. We can reduce the number of deer so there are fewer deer to spread the disease.
That’s why it is important to have a handle on deer density.”
The density derived from the university study matches the density Eyler found when he crunched harvest numbers.
Haas captured images of 60 different bucks. Some of the nicely antlered animals were photographed in August 2012 and again in August 2013 meaning, of course, that they were not taken by hunters in between.
The study showed a ratio of three does for every buck and a ratio of one fawn for every two does.
Eyler and his biologist cohorts are keeping an eye on hunter pressure in the CWD area.
“I think hunter effort had declined significantly and not just because of CWD,” he said. “In the 1990s, we would count 1,000 vehicles on the
Green Ridge (state forest) on opening day of deer firearm season. Now, on opening days, we are counting about 300.”
If hunters don’t kill enough deer to keep the animal density reasonable, the wildlife agency will have to consider other alternatives.
Thus far, WHS has avoided shooting of deer by agency personnel as has taken place in West Virginia.
Eyler said the study by Haus shows that nice bucks, older bucks, are making it through the hunting seasons on the state forest, thus developing larger antlers.
As with older, heavierantlered bucks anywhere, they are also likely discovering the safety that is afforded by nighttime movement.
Eyler said WHS will continue monitoring deer density on the forest, most likely using the infrared or spotlighting techniques. He added that the density of 20 to 30 deer per square mile found on the Green Ridge is about the same number found statewide, except for suburban
areas where it is greater because of minimal hunting mortality.
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at email@example.com.