Montana FWP talks about this critical time of the year for deer and elk populations . . .
Ladies and gentlemen, we are entering crunch time.
That time of the year when spring and winter play a tug of war, and depending on how it goes, deer and elk could be the losers.
Members of the deer family that go into winter in good shape have the energy reserves and body fat to survive those December and February subzero spells. But a long winter that continues through March and April will start to tip over the smallest and weakest.
And if we humans are not careful, we’ll cause some of the bigger animals to tip over.
Already some of our large game species could use a break. January was nice, with a handful of 50 degree days. But February plunged us back into winter, which after all is the season we’re in.
Now the real test for wildlife begins.
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A vaccine research provision in the recently passed farm bill has some folks worried that it could be used to fund ill-considered disease eradication programs in elk populations . . .
Some wildlife advocates worry a considerably rewritten wildlife disease provision in the final version of the federal farm bill will make it much harder to track livestock agencies’ efforts to control wild elk…
…[A] section called the Competitive, Special and Facilities Research Grant Act included a line calling for vaccine research to control “pests and diseases (especially zoonotic diseases) in wildlife reservoirs presenting a potential concern to public health or domestic livestock and pests and diseases in minor species (including deer, elk and bison).” That goes into a grant program authorized to spend about $3.5 billion over five years.
The problem, according to people like Glenn Hockett of the Gallatin Wildlife Association, is whether some of those grants will go toward the eradication of brucellosis in wildlife. Attempting to do so could devastate Montana’s wild elk herds without much benefit to its cattle industry, he said.
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As well as being good news for hunters, this will no doubt add fuel to the debate about wolf population impact on big game . . .
Big game wildlife populations appear to be bouncing back in Northwest Montana after a few rough years, according to state Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ spring surveys.
The percentage of white-tail fawns that survived winter is the highest since 2006 in Region 1, according to FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams. Williams said the survey found an average of 44 fawns for every 100 adults. Last year, that number was 30/100. In 2009, it had dropped to 24/100. Mule deer and elk populations also gained ground in almost all areas, Williams said.
The latest population estimates are welcome news for hunters and FWP. Last fall, nearly every region in the state saw significant declines in both animals harvested and hunters in the field, supporting a widespread perception that big game populations, specifically deer, are on the decline.
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