Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Skinny deer from harsh winter

This deer isn't far from starvation but made it through the long winter
The snow in the Nolalu area has now melted enough for me to pick up my trail cameras. It was just too mushy to wade out into the bush and get them before. Now there are only patches of snow left.
One camera caught this shot of an emaciated deer. The deep snow, about four feet on the level around here, probably resulted in some deer starving to death. They just couldn't move around enough to feed. However, judging by the number of deer we are seeing along the roads, in the fields and on trail cameras like this, lots of deer survived.
The deer population in Northwestern Ontario was very large last fall. They had spread into many areas that previously had been populated only by moose. Deer have a parasite that is harmless to them but is fatal to the moose. As a result moose have died off in many of their former areas. If the deer took a hit last winter, this could help their larger cousins. However, previous experience has shown that it takes successive winters of deep snow to really eradicate the deer.
The large deer herd has been a bonanza for timber wolves. Deer are much easier to catch than moose and are found in greater concentrations. This has led to some astounding wolf packs. In moose country a wolf pack usually only consists of five or six individuals. Now, with the heavy deer herd, people are seeing wolf packs of 20 or more wolves.
In areas that still have moose, this has meant higher-than-normal predation by wolves.
Moose are also taking a licking from an increased bear population. Black bears may be the greatest of all predators of moose. They get them just as they are born, in May, just as the bears are coming out of hibernation. It is almost impossible to get an accurate picture of bear predation on moose in Northwestern Ontario because of the dense Boreal Forest bush. But in areas that are more open, like Alaska, it has been shown that black bears can kill up to 50% of the moose calves.
The bear population all over Ontario has soared after the Ontario government cancelled the spring bear hunt about 20 years ago. Now towns all over the North are plagued with bears looking for garbage, barbecues, apple trees and the like.
There is a tiny renewal of spring bear hunting this year. It applies only to a few municipalities and won't result in many bears harvested.
However, the big dip in the moose population will result in enormous cuts in the numbers of moose tags for hunters. In some cases the tags have been slashed by 80 per cent. There are just far fewer moose out there.
We need a comprehensive management plan to help out the moose, bring back their numbers and increase the tags again. This should include a relaxation of regulations on the hunting of deer, a full-fledged return of spring bear hunting everywhere and making it easier to hunt wolves. Right now it is illegal to hunt wolves in an area with moose unless you have a moose tag! The government is sure that if they find you with a high-powered rifle in moose territory, you are hunting moose, even if you insist you are hunting wolves.
Wolf hunting could help outfitters who will lose business from the cutting of moose tags. However, the hunting must take place in the fall, not after moose season closes Dec. 15 which are the current regulations.
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