Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2010 Deer Management Summary

The 2010 NY state regular deer season in Westchester County ran from Oct 16-Dec 31. During this time, Westmoreland Sanctuary’s Deer Management Program (DMP) registered 16 individual hunters to harvest deer on the public and Wildlife Management portions of the Sanctuary. In 2009, 10 hunters participated on the public portion only on a limited trial basis.


The 2010 DMP was amended using some of the recommendations in the 2009 DMP summary and insight from other deer management programs, as well as input from our volunteer hunters and visitors. As a result, the Sanctuary was organized into “Management” zones and “No Hunting” zones. Visitation was permitted at all times during the deer management season, as opposed to the 2009 season in which we closed the Sanctuary for deer management activities. This plan was well received by both our volunteer hunters and the vast majority of visitors. Other major amendments are listed further in this report.

EFFORT
Hunting took place on a total of 52 days, which is thirty more days than during the 2009 season. The hours of effort of all individual hunters totaled 1126.5 hours over the 2010 season. This is a dramatic increase over the 267.75 hours accumulated during the 2009 season. A few reasons for this year’s increase in days hunted and total hours include:

1. Early organization and preparation of the 2010 DMP in advance of the NYS deer season opening date
2. Increased hunter access to the property during all days of the week
3. Increased hunter access by other points of entry to the property
4. Ability for hunters to participate as individuals as opposed to hunting as a group – increased flexibility within each hunter’s work/family schedule

The cumulative effort of individual hunters varied across a broad scale. The average hours of effort per hunter this season was about 70.5 hours. One hunter put in a total of nearly 179 hours over the course of the season, while another only contributed 8.75 hours of effort. A total of 7 (out of 16) hunters put in more hours of effort over the course of the season than the group average. The effort of individual hunters was not analyzed for the 2009 season.

The average daily effort by each hunter was 4.75 hours per day hunted. This is a slight increase from the 2009 average of 4.09 hours per day hunted. The maximum effort given in a single day by an individual hunter was 12.5 hours, which occurred on 5 occasions. The minimum effort given in a single day was 2 hours. Daily hours of effort generally decreased as the season progressed into December.

HARVEST RESULTS
The average number of deer observed by each hunter on each visit was 2.43, with a maximum of 14 deer observed on one occasion. The total number of deer harvested for the season (Oct 16-Dec 31) was 9, comprising 7 male and 2 female. Additionally, 2 deer (both does) were injured but not recovered this season. Hunting hours logged per deer harvested equals 125 hours, which is a slight decrease from 2009’s 133.88 hours per deer harvested. Unfortunately, this means it takes approximately 26 visits from our pool of hunters to harvest one deer.

Example: If each hunter hunts for the average of 4.75 hours a day, it would take 6.5 visits by any combination of 4 hunters to harvest one deer of either sex.

While the above analysis reflects the combined effort of the hunter pool, it is not a reflection of individual hunter effort or success. The five hunters who harvested one deer each this season recorded 179, 133, 75, 66, and 45 total hours, respectively. The one hunter who harvested a total of 4 deer accumulated only 88 total hours over the course of the season. That’s an average of 21.8 hours of effort per deer or one deer harvested every 4.5 visits by this hunter (based on the average daily effort of 4.75 hours per day).

Additional wildlife observations from the 2010 DMP were documented. In addition to the usual squirrels, chipmunks, turkey and the occasional Red-tailed hawk were sightings of Bobcat, Black bear, Coyote, Red fox, and Barred owl. The fox were seen on two occasions; all others were recorded only once during the season.

Coyote

Wild Turkey
DISCUSSION
2010 marked the first full season of deer management throughout the Westmoreland Sanctuary property. Additional hunter recruitment, increased access to the Sanctuary, and earlier preparation for the deer hunting season by the Sanctuary staff (updated DMP, neighborhood letter, signage, etc) contributed greatly to the increased level of effort by the hunter volunteers as compared to the 2009 trial season.

Despite the 4 fold increase in effort and more access to the Sanctuary property, the ratio of hours per deer harvested was essentially the same. On the bright side, four times the effort still yielded four times as many deer harvested (2 deer in 2009 vs. 9 deer in 2010). Moving forward, Sanctuary staff and hunter focus should be placed on increasing deer harvest independent of hunter effort to achieve management goals of a more ecologically sustainable deer herd.

Considerations for the 2011 DMP may include:
1. Additional hunters willing to put in hours throughout the entirety of the deer management season
2. Encouraging the existing pool of hunters to visit and scout the Sanctuary during the spring and summer months prior to the deer management season
3. Instituting hunter report cards to track the efforts of individual hunters and their commitment to the management program
4. Encouraging hunters to focus on and successfully harvest does (not bucks) to more effectively manage the sanctuary's deer herd
5. Require more diligence in reporting daily observation and harvest logs

Additional considerations will be forthcoming as the staff meets periodically with the hunter volunteers in advance of drafting the 2011 DMP.

In the coming months, the sanctuary staff will be conducting surveys to more accurately determine the approximate deer density, sex ratio (male : female), and recruitment ratio (births & immigration : deaths & emmigration) on the sanctuary property through a series of camera trap surveys.

For more information about our area's deer management issues please see the following resources:
1. Westchester Citizen's Task Force on White-tailed Deer and Forest Regeneration
2. Westchester County 2009 Pilot Adaptive Deer Management Program Report
3. White-tailed Deer in Greenburgh, Westchester County, NY
4. Managing White-tailed Deer in Forest Habitat From an Ecosystem Perspective

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

1 comment:

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