Deer Q & A with DNR’s Tom Micetich
December 19, 2013 at 01:41 PM
Questions and answers, with Tom Micetich, deer project manager, Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The State Journal-Register
Prairie State Outdoors: Is there a final number for EHD (epizootic hemorrhagic disease) cases reported?
Micetich: We had 1,220 reported from 63 counties this year.
PSO: Can the number of EHD cases reported be extrapolated into an estimate of how many deer were affected? Or are they best used to spot trends?
Micetich: EHD is a virus that kills deer somewhere in Illinois every year. The impact of EHD tends to be fairly localized. Seldom can a measurable impact on harvest attributable to EHD be detected at the county, let alone statewide level.
We had reports of just under 3,000 deer dead in 87 counties during 2012, and this year we’ve had 1,220 from 63 counties.
Not all dead deer are found. Not all deer found dead are reported. We compile what is shared with us and include information in news releases. The data provided in our news releases are raw numbers provided by the public. There are no “fudge factors” or multipliers applied.
In areas with significant losses, hunters will find fewer deer.
While the numbers will rebound in a year or two, it will take a little longer for the return of an older age structure, if a number of mature animals were lost.
Those concerned with low deer observations where they are hunting should merely back off on their doe harvest until numbers return to a more desirable level.
PSO: Can deer develop resistance to EHD?
Micetich: Yes. There are numerous serotypes (variations within a species) of the virus, however, and exposure to one type may not afford immunity to any of the others.
PSO: How close are we to meeting the targets of the Joint Task Force on Deer Population?
Micetich: The statewide deer-vehicle accident rate goal was met for the first time in 2012. However, there are still individual counties with some work yet to be done.
As counties reach their goal rates, they are removed from the late antlerless seasons, except in counties where chronic wasting disease (CWD) may be a concern.
There have been about a dozen or so counties that have been removed in the past two years. Pending 2013 data analysis, there are a number of others that will come out next year.
PSO: Some hunters are asking if there will be changes to the late-winter seasons. Are any changes being considered?
Micetich: There won’t be any changes to this year’s late-winter season (Greene County was previously announced as being closed).
There are counties that remain well above their goal accident rates, which do not have adequate doe harvest to curb herd growth, and/or reduce deer numbers. Those counties are the ones that are open to the late-winter seasons.
If deer numbers have declined to less than desirable levels, again, hunters are advised to back off of their doe harvest. Just because a season is offered does not mean you must hunt it.
Hunters and property managers may want to talk with those hunting and managing surrounding property to share their concerns. Problems exist when neighbors have differing ideas for managing the same deer. While one may want more deer, a neighbor who has lost acres of crops to deer may have other ideas.
PSO: How big a factor was the cold weather? Could it have actually helped if deer numbers were down by keeping some hunting pressure off?
Micetich: Deer numbers are down statewide, in most places.
You likely recall that was the mandate from the General Assembly through the Legislative Deer Task Force in its 2008 report to our director.
While many make jokes about a weather report included in the firearm season deer harvest news releases, it is there for a reason. It is not provided as an “excuse,” as some believe. It is there so that when we look up past years’ firearm news releases, we can get the weather conditions at the same time.
Like it or not, adverse weather does affect hunter participation and deer movement. Hunters that elect not to hunt, or spend fewer hours doing so, will be less likely to kill a deer.
We will know more about hunter effort, by season, when the annual hunter surveys are conducted at the conclusion of this year’s hunting seasons.
PSO: Has there been an over-reaction to the firearm season numbers? Is it just a statistical blip that will sort out over time?
Micetich: I believe that many are citing a 25.5 percent statewide reduction in the firearm harvest as proof positive that the herd has been destroyed. It should be pointed out that the archery harvest is currently within 2 percent, and muzzleloader was about 2.5 percent lower than last year. Of course, individual counties vary.
PSO: Any other thoughts?
Micetich: Annually, biologists from the Forest Wildlife Program evaluate every county open to firearm deer hunting.
Permit quotas (either-sex and antlerless only) for firearm and muzzleloader seasons are adjusted as needed; and doe harvest is reviewed to determine if the late-winter or CWD season is needed to achieve goals.
Disease, hunter success, deer harvest, deer-vehicle accident rates and damage complaints are among things considered in that analysis.
The hunter and landowner surveys conducted this past summer at open houses and online, will also play an important part of this year’s decision-making process.