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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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Monday, August 26, 2013

Stripped of it's carnivores(Grizzlies, Wolves, Pumas) by the mid 1800's, Iowa, with only Foxes, Coyotes and Bobcats(10-25 pound animals) remaining,, still find themselves concerned with a declining deer population............The dramatic loss of Conservation Reserve land due to rising commodity prices and demand for biofuels, has shrunk habitat for all wild creatures ...... There used to be some deer because of old groves and CRP acres, now these areas have basically become deer-free...................Combine this key factor with Global Warming induced drought and you have a far larger problem than if you had significant open spaces that allowed for Deer,.Bison, Wolves and Pumas to exist side by side as they did pre "sod-busting"

The state of deer(Iowa)
By Dana Larsen

Decreasing amounts conservation land and last year's
 drought are prominent among the list of reasons for a
 small deer count in northwest Iowa, according to Iowa
 DOT biologist Tom Lichtfield.

Several factors shrinking area whitetail population
They say Tom Lichtfield knows so much about deer that he's starting to think like them. Turns out, they're right."Deer have a bigger brain, which usually means intelligence. They're not exactly Einsteins, but some people who have been after a certain older buck for a while might think they are," Tom said. "Some people might think they are the goofiest animal in the wild kingdom, because they will just stand in the road and stare at headlights coming and not make a move to escape ... but there is something about light that triggers something in their brain that virtually blanks them out ... we think that all they perceive is a light, that they don't see the big metal object behind it at all. The way they are wired, they see light getting bigger, they don't get the depth perception to realize it is coming closer to them."

What deer are good at is surviving in an ecosystem that today offers very little habitat and protection.
"They are smart enough to learn and remember. If a behavior keeps them alive one season, they tend to repeat it in following years. They are smart enough to cue into deer season, to recognize that human activity ramps up on a certain piece of property at a certain time of year," said Tom, the Iowa Department of Transportation's leading deer guru biologist. Some deer will retreat to what they consider their safe spot each year when hunting pressure begins, and some bucks become virtually nocturnal -- changing their entire natural behavior through the hunting season.Generally this is enough smarts to ensure that the herd will continue on a stable basis even in a year when hunting conditions are exceptional.

However, deer numbers have declined in the Buena Vista County and northwest Iowa regions, Tom said.
Statewide, Iowa's deer herd has been decreasing steadily since 2006. In 2003, the DNR set out to reduce the state's herd to the levels seen in the mid to late 1990s, using antlerless hunting permits to encourage hunters to take a doe after they got their buck. It took three years to have an effect, with population then peaking and beginning a down curve. Other than a few isolated spots in south central Iowa and in the Loess Hills, that goal has now been met, Lichtfield said.

However, Buena Vista County was never really considered to have an excess of animals. "Even in 2003, your county and most of northwest and north central Iowa saw a lot fewer deer than the rest of the state. There's less cover and more land in row crops. By 2006, many counties in your area had already declined back to the mid 1990s level."

Now, Buena Vista and surrounding counties are likely below the goal level. "We feel like the population is okay, and stable, but (antlerless) quotas were reduced to zero in 2006-07, and there may be some need in this area to change policies even more to foster a little increase," Lichtfield said.
The outlook for the coming hunting season?

"Numbers in Buena Vista County should be similar to last year, with one caveat - in my opinion hunters in northwest Iowa had a much better last season than I would have expected. The harvest in my opinion was strong for the number of deer. The drought had deer up on their feet seeking forage, and concentrated more around water -- making them artificially vulnerable. This fall hunters may find fewer compared to last year."
It's impossible to get an accurate count on deer, who are simply too elusive and too mobile for a census, Lichtfield admitted. "I do a population estimate just because people ask for it -- it's of no real value to me as a biologist. Really all we can hope for is general trend knowledge."

Local deer face an uphill battle that the DNR didn't foresee -- the dramatic loss of Conservation Reserve land. With rising commodity prices and demand for biofuels, habitat has taken a back seat. "There used to be some deer because of old groves and CRP acres, now these areas have basically become deer-free," Lichtfield said. Those few places left with some cover, food and access to water have good deer numbers.
Could BV support more deer? Of course, Lichtfield said. "Even at the peak, we were still a long way from reaching the carrying capacity. Social tolerances would never let it reach capacity because of property damage -- and maybe that's a good thing, because the deer are healthier for not being very concentrated," Lichtfield says.

Northern Iowans are less willing to put up with deer than those in the rest of the state, just because they are used to lower numbers, he said. Luckily, the counties with low deer numbers haven't had a serious health problem to further knock down population. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease has made no serious inroads into this region, with the weather just a bit too cold for the inspect that spreads the disease to thrive in numbers. There are outbreaks in Iowa about every 10 years; last year was the worst to date.Chronic Wasting Disease was found in three areas in 2012, but all among captive deer. Over 4,400 wild deer were tested last year in an effort to prevent the disease from gaining a foothold.

Poaching, however, is a threat. "It ebbs and flows. Last year it picked up. Iowa is at risk because it is known for having larger than average bucks. Years ago, it seemed that poaching in this area was someone shooting a doe ... probably because they needed the food, and they ate it. Now it's going to be someone shooting a buck for something to decorate their wall. They cut the head off and leave the rest to rot," the biologist says.
"It's enough to make a person mad, or sad. There's always someone with no ethics, and there are never enough wardens to stop it. We need people to provide tips to catch these people. In a world with hungry people, why would we kill animals just to brag about a set of antlers or sell them for a profit?"
Lichtfield isn't thrilled about some of the hunting practices today, either. "Surveillance cameras are one of the unfortunate things in my opinion. I hate to see hunters get too dependent on technology. I come from Montana, and no remote cameras are allowed in the field there during big game seasons," he said.
He worries too about animals that are raised or confined in small areas by landowners who bring in hunters for a like-shooting-fish-in-a-barrel experience at a profitable price. "People watch the shows on TV and see a hunter getting their animal pretty much instantly, because that's how they have to do it with a film crew. Unfortunately, some people going into hunting are expecting the same -- and there's nothing really sporting about that."

Even well-meaning people can be a problem. "One of the biggest things in the spring are people finding wild fawns and picking them up, thinking they are abandoned. That's almost never the case. It's called hider strategy -- a fawn has very little scent to attract predators, while that isn't the case with the mother. The doe beds down the fawn and only comes to it to nurse and groom -- otherwise it stays at a safe distance so predators can't use the doe to find the fawn."

A final threat, oddly, is lower numbers of young hunters. "We're still recruiting youth pretty well, but if we lose this generation in the outdoors, we're going to hit a tipping point," Tom says, and that will mean the state in the future will have lost its only tool to control the herd size, and thus the health of the animals."
With all considered, local deer are down, but far from out. "We need to keep an eye on them," Lichtfield says. "In your part of the state they are vulnerable enough."

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