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What affects our deer herd numbers most?

1331 Views 12 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  nbbucks
I think we can all agree that our deer herd numbers could grow substantially, especiaally in some or most areas of the province and not too long ago, DNR suggested that our woodlands could support a considerably larger deer herd so...what do you think affects herd numbers the most in your area...coyotes, poaching, loss of habitat and food supplies, hard winters...or is it a combination of things...and can we do anything to address the problem? What do you think?
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A few years ago, there were 6 deer that died in the woods near our place, I think predators got them personally. There is certainly no lack of food in this area, between gardens, and people feeding them. That's why Quispamsis is essentially a deer farm.

I can remember as a kid having huge snowfalls and massive snow banks. Winters have been getting slacker over the years. Altho I was shorter then than I am now, I have never seen snow drifts that reach the roof since I was a kid, and I still live in the same place, and its not near as cold now as it was then. My father used to plow through the snow drifts on the road in the old CJ-5 in the 70's. They were up to the hood in many places on our road. They actually had to bring in a bulldozer to clear snow once because the plow trucks could not do it.

I think a large number of deer die because of forestry practices. It pushes them out of a comfort zone, into a smaller clump where they are easy pickings for predators. Someone mentioned that clear cuts were loaded with food (saplings). This may be the case, but shelter is also important. A deer in the middle of a clear-cut sticks out like a sore thumb. I don't believe that a clear-cut is enough to sustain a herd of any size.

If a doe has 3 offspring, and only one survives, then we are going to lose our deer pretty quickly.

To address the issue; Conservation needs to focus on offspring survivability to boost herd numbers. It takes a few years for offspring to be mature enough for breeding and no shelter = short life.
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Great post PredatorOne. We need more hunters thinking about these kinds of questions. If we don't think about these questions, then we're going to lose our huting priveleges. Personally, I also find it interesting to hear the response to this question from the non-hunting communittee.

If you asked the same question to the non-hunting communittee, then I know many of them would believe that hunting (not poaching) is the number one reason that deer numbers are down. However, there are countless studies from all over the world that indcate that loss of habitat is the number one critical factor that sustains populations of any animal (including fish and bugs). Deer are no exception to this rule. When I'm talking about "habitat", I'm refering to an area that has the proper landscape, cover, and food supply to support deer. Typically the first thing that causes animal populations to decrease is the loss of habitat, which is the first big drop in a population. It's not until the population drops that you start to really notice all the other smaller factors that also play a role in supporting the population (things like: climate, predators, and poaching).

Climate naturally changes all the time. Because we live on the northern boundary of the whitetail range we can expect that we are going to have many years that will rough on the deer, but overall the deer population will be able to survive, and even thrive. So, climate dictates whether or not deer will be present in an area, but it doesn't really dicatate the amount of deer that the area can support.

When the deer population is strong, you never really ever notice predator influence. It's not until the population drops that you start to notice the influence of predators. Predators don't really take a lot of deer (some will disagree), but it starts to feel like a lot after the population has already dropped off because of habitat loss and hard winters. You never hear anyone complaining about coyotes when the deer population is strong. There is a balance there that nature takes care of.

It's tough to know if poaching plays a big role in the deer population because you never know how much of it is going on. Obviously it has some influence, but it's tough to know how much...the obvious answer is "too much". I just hope that poaching isn't too popular in New Brunswick (or anywhere), but if it is, then we can expect our deer numbers to continue to drop. If poaching is truly causing a drop in the deer population, then we can expect it to become even harder to hunt with freedom in the future.

I just want to mention loss of habitat one more time because it's not easy to understand. Loss of habitat is easy to understand when you see something like a huge stand of old growth forest getting leveled to the ground...where there once was habitat there is no longer (some will also disagree with this). However, cutting down habitat isn't the only way to lose habitat. Deer like their privacy, and the more we enter an area, or drive through an area, or inhabit an area, the more the deer are likely to avoid that area, which means that the habitat is then lost.

Vehicles are a huge cause of deer loss as well. The 2009 DNR Big Game Report says that there were 5060 registered deer shot by hunters, and 2700 reported deer killed by vehicles. That means that ere were at least 2700 deer killed by accident and wasted. I also suspect that only about a third of deer killed by vehicles are actually reported. In all honesty, I have known many people who have hit deer with their cars, and none of them reported it to DNR.

I have had these conversations with people who think that I'm "cruel" because I hunt. I have presented these arguments, and I've successfully convinced several of them that hunters are not the cause of animal declines. I'm not talking about poachers...I'm talking about hunters.

Happy hunting.
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Loss of habitat. Less habitat = less deer. Simple!

The rest of the factors are all secondary but related to loss of habitat.

Hard winters - lack of heavy timber and wintering areas.

Coyotes - lack of wintering areas resulting in deeper snow in areas where the deer are now.

It's defintely not over harvesting!
#1 Forestry practises, not cutting but plantations and spraying them
#2 Winters
There is an easier way to figure this out than guessing. Someone in a post on another thread said that there were 80,000 deer in NB. If there is, then what do each of the factors listed above remove in a year?

We just heard from Murray that hunting took 5060 - that's 6.3%
He said roadkill loss was 2700 - that's 3.4%. If he thinks only 1/3 get reported, that would be 10%.

DNR radiocollared fawns back a few years and said we lose 36% of all fawns born before fall. Who knows how many fawns are born every year? lessee - if we have 80,000 deer (and I'm thinking out loud here...dangerous) and there are about twice as many does as bucks out there, then just over 50,000 would be does. If they have at least one fawn per doe, that's 50,000 fawns * 36% = 18,000 deer lost ....but that would be of 80,000 plus 50,000 - so that would be 14% of all deer.

Winters can wreak havoc on deer. According to the Big Game Harvest report we lost 20% of the herd in the winter of 2008-9.

Seems to me that if we're looking for the biggest factors, two of them - according to the numbers, are entirely out of our control.

Can't put a number on the habitat one. Does it kill deer? It likely moves them around a lot, and limits how many we have, and where they live, but it doesn't outright kill deer. That's what makes it so dangerous.....slowly lowering and squeezing deer from where they should be to where we don't want them, and then changing it by planting and spraying sucks the room for growth right out of these areas.
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For crowm land no question IMO...#1 loss of habitat and spraying(herbicides)mono culture... animals do not like softwood for browse plain and simple lol..actually not funny...winters can have an impact again no question and predation too...put loss of habitat and a couple bad winters...bad recipe IMO...No reason why DNR can not find a way to improve on forestry practices...I totally understand the wood companies that is thier buisness but why can't they help the wildlife in the same boat...cut 1000 acres leave 100 to come back natural...spray the roads sides with clover...incorparate a field or two of clover,plant some apple trees etc etc...there are ways and I'm sure there are groups who would help...My two cents...
PS- I would add one more thing an emergency feeding program for certain ares in case of one of harsh winters...
The question wasn't what kills them but most affects them.
Well then, what does P1 mean by "affect"? Killing a deer has a pretty big affect on a deer I think...but that's just me. Habitat moves them around, and lowers how many can be there.
Your right killing him has a pretty big affect on a deer

Sure it moves them around from loss of habitat and then they die by all those other means because of it. Habitat loss may be indirect but habitat still has a greater affect IMO, if you limit the number of deer we can support then you effectively limit a far greater amount which would have been available to die by all those other means. If NB habitat allowed for carrying 120,000 deer, which at one time it did, and you take enough habitat away so that you are down to only being able to support 80,000, which is about what we have, then effectively you have eliminated 40,000 deer on an annual basis which would have been available. Pretty near all other losses combined. Indirect affect but far greater IMHO
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It is a known fact that the white tailed deer actually strive in fringe cover type habitat, ironically created by massive clearcutting practices and minimal buffer type areas left standing near streams and watercourses here in NB.

If these massive deforestation practices did not include spraying and monoculture stand re-planting, I would think that by now we would be swamped with deer from the last 30 years of habitat re-shaping (not to call it destruction, I'm trying to be politically correct here....real tuff...)

Biggest hurdle is winter protective cover and adequate food availability for winter starved deer herds. Without protected DWAs, and increasing snow depth, our cervids don't have a leg left to stand on. This is easily confirmed by the relatively new (last 15 years) dispersion of our NB herd being more concentrated in the Southern part of the province, where a warmer climate prevails and timber stands (the few that are left standing), still provide a shelter belt for the deer.

A stress compensator is food; loss of habitat but access to agricultural smorgasboard of food compensates and helps the herd make it through in point again, most agricultural activities still in force in NB...Southern part of the Province, where there is still a favorable habitat for what a whitetailed deer herd looks for to survive!

So I guess my long story short answer is not deforestation practices, but in reality re-forestation practices, if you can call such scandalous management a practice......and please don't blame it on poaching....really...we should be way past that by now...

End of rant.
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Loss of wintering habit and then also spraying the new browse that comes up which again affects the amount of winter feed.
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