ANF: Few DMAP tags are needed this year

By Jeff
Mulhollem

Editor

Warren, Pa. – Deer managers on the largest public land parcels
across Pennsylvania revealed vastly different plans for using the
Game Commission’s deer management assistance program in recent
weeks.

Commonly known as DMAP, it gives landowners the ability to
receive extra antlerless deer-hunting permits to eliminate more
deer on properties where they believe habitat or crops are being
damaged by overbrowsing.

DMAP – which has been roundly criticized by hunters who believe
the program results in an overharvest of deer on public lands to
protect profits from timber sales, and widely praised by landowners
who say it allows them to protect their forests from too many deer
– has been controversial.

But this year, some deer managers are reducing their reliance on
DMAP.

For instance, almost no DMAP permits will be available for the
Allegheny National Forest in Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren
counties. ANF wildlife managers have determined that deer numbers
there are low enough.

&#8220Most of the Allegheny National Forest is not in DMAP
this year because the program has been very successful, and we have
achieved the goal,” said Mary Hosmer, an employee with the U.S.
Forest Service in Warren. &#8220We will only be offering 150
coupons in the extreme northeastern corner of the ANF on just
50,000 acres in the Kinzua Quality Deer Cooperative.”

Hosmer explained that forest managers believe, after keeping
deer numbers low on the 513,325-acre national forest in recent
years, understory habitat is recovering. She noted that, depending
on the habitat, the ANF’s deer-population goal is 10 to 20 deer per
forested square mile.

&#8220We participated in the DMAP program for the last four
years and this year the deer herd is within our goal and the
habitat is recovering, so we are going to see what will happen if
we just go with the regular antlerless licenses from the Game
Commission,” she said. &#8220We will re-evaluate next spring to
see the result.”

ANF scientists annually collect deer-population information from
vegetation habitat surveys, hunter deer-check stations, spring
fawn-to-doe ratios, buck-to-doe ratios in late summer and spring
deer-pellet counts, Hosmer ex-plained. &#8220We look at those
five different types of information and base our request for DMAP
to the state on them,” she said. &#8220We roll all of that
information together to see if we are going to have a DMAP program
in the fall.”

DMAP has been an &#8220excellent tool” to allow ANF to
improve the health of the forest and the health of the deer, Hosmer
believes. &#8220When we get a better understory because the
deer aren’t eating it all, we will have more wildlife such as
rabbits and snowshoe hares, songbirds and grouse,” she said.
&#8220And of course, the deer will have better habitat,
too.”

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry also will be adjusting its
use of DMAP this year, according to Merlin Benner, a wildlife
biologist the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural
Resources.

DCNR will have 67 areas enrolled in DMAP encompassing 861,415
acres of state forest and offering 17,541 coupons to deer hunters.
In addition, 15 state parks will be included in the program,
representing 77,412 acres and offering 1,536 DMAP coupons to
hunters.

&#8220So, overall enrollment on the state forests is up from
63 to 67 areas, acreage is up from 802,346 to 861,415 acres,”
Benner said. &#8220The number of coupons requested, however,
went down slightly from 17,590 on state forest sites last year to
17,541 this year.”

Three state forest districts dropped out of DMAP this year,
according to Benner – Buchanan (Fulton and Bedford counties),
Tuscarora (Perry and Juniata counties), and Corn-planter (Crawford,
Warren and Forest counties) – because of reductions in browsing
pressure and improvements in forest regeneration.

&#8220The increase in acreage with a decrease in coupons
reflects the bureau’s moving into more of a maintenance-mode
regarding deer browsing, where the general habitat conditions
appear to be improving, but specific problem areas remain with an
ongoing need for DMAP,” he said. &#8220We expect to stay with
this strategy into the future, as we adapt our use of DMAP to the
changing forest-habitat conditions in response to local browsing
and regeneration conditions. &#8220

DCNR intends to expand its use of DMAP in the future,
particularly in some of the very large, remote areas of Wildlife
Management Area 2G, Benner noted. &#8220That’s where we’ve
chosen to focus willing hunters on particular areas until habitat
conditions begin to show evidence of improvement there,” he said.
&#8220Then we’ll shift the focus to other, new areas.

&#8220There are areas where we are backing off and we feel
there is no need for further reduction (in deer numbers) because we
are getting adequate regeneration and the regular antlerless
allocation will do fine in those areas,” Benner added.

State forests that have dropped out of DMAP are mostly comprised
of smaller tracts of land where hunting pressure is high because
they offer only public land to hunt in their areas, Benner pointed
out. &#8220They also don’t have the chronic, long-term over
browsing problem that the larger tracts in the northcentral region
have,” he said.

&#8220We are seeing continued overbrowsing in our browsing
studies up there and our strategy has been to focus in a few areas
and get them under control before we concentrate on other areas.
There are just so many acres (in the northern tier) and we want to
keep the hunters concentrated up there.”

Game Commission press secretary Jerry Feaser was unable to offer
DMAP totals by press time. &#8220We don’t have the DMAP coupons
entered into our database yet,” he said.

In reply to hunters’ contentions that farmers don’t participate
in the program, only large forest land holders such as DCNR and
Allegheny National Forest, he pointed out that only &#8220large
properties with lots of DMAP coupons” are included on the agency’s
Web site.

&#8220Smaller landowners with fewer permits don’t have a
problem finding hunters to give their DMAP coupons to,” he said.
&#8220It is their choice whether they want to be listed on the
Web site or not. The program makes available one permit for every
50 acres of forested land, and one permit for every acre of farmed
land.”

Last year, 750 properties representing 1,871,387 acres were
approved for enrollment in DMAP. A total of 36,626 coupons were
approved for distribution by landowners.

In 2005, 691 properties representing 1,945,759 acres were
approved for enrollment in DMAP. A total of 42,235 coupons were
approved for distribution by landowners.

Landowners are permitted to provide up to two DMAP coupons per
property to a licensed hunter, who will then apply for the DMAP
permits.

This enables hunters to possess up to two DMAP permits for a
specific DMAP area. Landowners may not charge or accept any
contribution from a hunter for a DMAP coupon.

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