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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When I hear hunters using the term, "improving the deer herd",,,,,,,,,an "orange and red alert" flashes in my mind...........Because many human hunters have subjective preferences as it relates to antler size and other characteristics that we deem "best of show" for deer, we often end up hurting the habitat the deer herd is dependent on.............Always optimum to have the full suite of deer predators(wolves, pumas, bears and men) applying a landscape top down impact on deer rather than simply man made "rules of the hunt" at play in the hunting season...........As New York biologist, Chris Cook states: "In nearly all situations, trying to improve the genetics of a deer herd would be much better spent on practices that can return tangible results, such as continuing to concentrate on habitat improvement and shooting more antlerless deer each season"

OUTDOORS FEATURE: Deer management through culling: Feasible or not?

bob kornegay;

Many hunters managing a
 property for quality bucks
 encourage culling deer
 based on perceived
 "genetic abnormalities."

Many hunters managing a property for quality bucks encourage culling deer based on perceived

The deer-hunting public's
 interest in deer management increases each year,as
 by countless print articles and video productions that
 management-related topics. Ongoing needs
 for increased doe kill, protection of young bucks, and
 improved deer habitat are extensively detailed.
Many deer hunters have grasped these concepts and
 implemented them on their
 hunting properties. They have improved the habitat on
 their leases or landholdings
 as well as the quality of their deer herds.
Their herds are in balance with the habitat, the
 buck-age structure is much improved
, and the adult buck-to-doe ratio is well balanced.
 Many groups are completely satisfied
 with their progress, but some hunting organizations
 want to go farther.
One of the main reasons for dissatisfaction with
 a deer management program is the
 size and shape of antlers on the bucks observed
 and killed each year. Bucks that do
 not possess what are deemed "normal" antlers
 are judged inferior by many deer hunters and
In their opinions, any buck that does not meet a
 specific minimum for antler size must surely be
genetically inferior since it is subjected to the same
 environmental and habitat conditions as bucks with
 bigger, better-formed antlers.
Removing these deer as "culls" to improve a
 antler genetics is the logical next step in many
and managers' minds. According to wildlife
 biologist Chris
 Cook, there are two important questions to
answer before
 proceeding with a culling program: "Are the
 problem antler
 traits genetically caused?" and "Will culling
correct the
 problem?" The answers to both questions
 are difficult, if not
 impossible, to answer in most situations.
"Determining the cause of a free-ranging
 buck's antler
'abnormality' or 'deficiency' by looking at the
 live deer on
the hoof is practically impossible," Cook said.
 "Deer are
 subjected every day of their lives to many
 things that carry
 a potential impact on antler development.
Injuries, drought, and poor habitat quality
 all can cause
 a buck's antlers to develop abnormally. Many
 of these factors
 are completely out of managerial control, even
 for an expert
. For these reasons, most bucks, especially
 those 2 ½ years
 old and younger, should as a rule be given
 the benefit of the
 doubt when having the quality of their antlers
Most experts believe injuries to a buck's
 body or its growing
 antlers are usually the main culprits in antler
 abnormality, not
 poor genetics.
Some body injuries typically cause antler
 abnormalities during
 the year immediately following the injury. Given
 time, the buck will
 heal and usually will grow a more typical set of
 antlers in
 subsequent years.
The same applies to injuries to the antlers
 themselves, which
 normally return to their usual conformation in
 years following.
"Some types of injuries, such as those affecting
 the antler pedicle,
 can cause malformed antlers every year following
 the injury," Cook
 added, "but this is pretty rare. And even in these
cases, there is
 nothing genetically 'wrong' with the buck."
Another argument against culling bucks is a lack
 of understanding
 about white-tailed deer genetics. By and large, the
 genetics of deer,
 including those determining antler production, are
 poorly understood.
"What some people don't understand is that the
 dam (doe) provides
 as much or more genetic influence for antler
 development as does the
 sire," Cook explained. "If it is possible to impact a
 deer herd's antler
genetics by removing specific deer, one would also
 have to identify
and remove the doe that produced the cull buck
 in question.
Additionally, one would have to believe that it
is possible to quickly
 change thousands of years of genetic development
 with a rifle or a
 bow. It simply doesn't work that way."
According to Cook, most culling "experts" tend to
 target bucks with
unbalanced or abnormally shaped antlers rather
 than bucks with antlers
 that are smaller and well formed. These bucks are
 habitually labeled as
 "genetically inferior" or "limited potential" bucks,
 although their supposed
 antler abnormalities may have absolutely nothing
to do with genetics.
 On the other hand, most well formed but smaller-antlered
 bucks are judged
 to be young, but with good potential.
"Unfortunately, this is completely wrong in many
instances," said Cook
. "Some of the 'genetically inferior' or 'limited potential'
 bucks are simply
young and need time to overcome injuries or a slow
 start in life.
Conversely, many of the well-formed, smaller-antlered
 bucks judged
 to be young are actually average 3 ½ years old or
older and have grown
 their best antlers. Thus, deer that may actually have
 a genetic abnormality
 may not be culled."
The causes of abnormal antler development in
 white-tailed deer are
 numerous and difficult to understand. Unfortunately,
 nearly none of the
 contributing factors can be identified simply by
 observing free-ranging
 bucks in the field.
This, however, does not deter many deer
hunters and managers
 from making misguided or misunderstood
management decisions in
 the name of "culling."
"In nearly all situations," Cook concluded,
 "the effort expended on
 trying to improve the genetics of a deer herd
 would be much better
 spent on practices that can return tangible
 results, such as continuing
 to concentrate on habitat improvement and
 shooting more antlerless
 deer each season."
Give it some thought before entering
 implementing a buck-culling
 program on your hunting property. You might
 just be defeating your purpose.

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