Collecting Deer Data - Part 1

ArrayNovember 24, 2013 at 10:08 am

The firearms season on deer is in full swing and while hunters scramble seeking deer, biologists scramble seeking successful hunters. During the month of November, wildlife biologists across the state are in a frantic race to collect as much biological data as possible from harvested deer; to do this they are making regular visits to tagging stations and meat processors. Don’t be surprised if they also show up on your door step. The first step to bulk data collection is getting to know the people who handle deer every day all season: the processors. Thousands of successful deer hunters bring their deer to meat processors, so by visiting the processors, biologists can get the most bang for their buck (take or leave the pun), obtaining growth and health data from three to thirty deer in a single stop. This provides more efficient use of time and mileage and also provides a more complete picture of the deer herd’s health, numbers, and age/sex make up. Next the biologists stop at local tagging stations. They look at the registration books kept by the tagging station and take note of the relative age (fawn or adult), size (weights and antler points), and location of the deer being harvested. They also take notes including addresses and phone numbers of the successful hunters. Don’t worry; we won’t use this information for telemarketing or pesky junk mail. We use it to track down certain deer. The idea that information from a single deer cannot make a difference is false for a couple of reasons. The first reason pertains to CWD (for more information about CWD, visit my previous post ). Although Maine deer have yet to test positive for CWD, MDIFW collects samples from deer and moose from specific towns for testing so that in the event CWD does rear its ugly head in Maine, we will catch it early. For this reason alone, a single deer can make a difference, and biologists routinely go door to door seeking lymph node samples and measurements from deer harvested in these towns. The other reason biologists may go door to door seeking harvested deer is to make sure we have obtained measurements from enough deer to provide an accurate picture of the aforementioned health and make-up of the deer herd. It has been estimated that to get a clear accurate picture of our entire deer herd, we need measurements from 15 percent of the deer harvested in each wildlife management district (WMD) statewide. Fifteen percent might not sound like much, but when you consider the 2012 deer harvest was 21,552 animals, 15 percent means the state’s 22 wildlife biologists need to take measurements from at least 3,234 animals. That’s a lot of running around, but wildlife biologists are up to the task and looking forward to the opportunity to look at your deer.