Southwest Wisconsin deer/predator study holds untold potential

Researchers and volunteers are in their first winter of trapping deer and predators (mostly coyotes and bobcats) as part of a five-year deer/predator study in the southwestern Wisconsin counties of Grant, Iowa and Dane. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

The recently initiated five-year southwestern Wisconsin deer and predator study, funded with money from the Pittman-Robertson Act, has a real chance of making a difference in Wisconsin’s deer management.

Some of the top scientists connected to the study call the five-year scientific analysis energetic, far-reaching, ambitious and well-organized. If anything, the process is mis-named.  It’s much more than finding out what is killing deer. It may do that very well, here in Grant, Iowa and Dane counties, but in addition to doing so, it will also gather books, file cabinets, flash drives, and the minds of hunters and wildlife biologists data like we have never seen or even imagined.

First, the temporary field crews are first class. They are polite, energetic, knowledgeable, and organized. They have little time to think of days off, long hours, and sometimes working in unpleasant conditions. There is little guarantee of their work becoming permanent.

They act and work as though they have just found the highest-paying wildlife position with no worry of having ever to look for a different position.

Here’s a partial list of information being amassed:

  • Determining the genetic makeup of Wisconsin’s deer regarding their reaction to chronic wasting disease.
  • Determining what portion of the deer in these areas is infected; a comparison is being made between the CWD tissue tests with prions being found in fecal material from the same animal.
  • Determining how much deer move in their ranges in relation to hunting, food availability and where they spend their time at various seasons relative to vegetation available.
  • General health of the herd coming out of winter and how that impacts all the other factors.
  • Finding and tagging new fawns and noting their responses to predators.

And the data collection continues.

The data is documented and future scientists can dig through it for years to come and possibly answer questions no one has thought of at this moment.

The biggest question relates to the science of the process. Will those individuals making the final decisions listen to the scientists and consider the data? Will the politicians shun the information if they don’t like what it is suggesting? Will the wildlife biologists be allowed to be wildlife biologists? Will the hunters be willing to change their thoughts if necessary?

Or will this become another “climate change scenario” where the data is there but those in power have “alternative falsehoods” that will drive their decisions about regulations, management practices and social pressures?

Let’s hope the outcome will be doing the right thing, even if it means a few folks having to begin to accept science for what it does best – remove personal biases, favoritisms and prejudices.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Whitetail Deer, Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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