Where Are The Deer? That’s What Hunters In Bath County Want To Know
Warm Springs, Va – Where are the deer? That’s the question that’s been on a lot of hunters’ minds for quite a while now. Last week at Bath County High School representatives from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries explained some of the factors contributing to the decline of the deer population in the area. Deer density has fallen about 40 to 60% over the past decade in Bath, Highland and Alleghany counties.
Habitat decline along with the explosion of the black bear and coyote populations are all possibly contributing factors. Bath County Supervisor and hunter Jon Trees organized the presentation.
“The biggest thing we have to do as the hunting fraternity is to work for a common goal, [and] to adhere to the regulations that the game department has created” says Trees. “I firmly believe that if we work together and from the turnout we had tonight, which I was extremely pleased with, and the comments that heard, it is a common goal and I think everybody wants what I certainly want for the hunters of Bath County. And not only for the hunters of Bath County – this is having an economic impact on Bath County because the hunters who once come [sic] to Bath County are not coming any longer, so hopefully we can get that turned around.”
Right now this area doesn’t provide the ideal habitat for deer. Deer need food, water, space and dense understory to hide in. Wooded ridges offer little food and cover. This area is now heavily forested, because in the past 20 years there’s been an 80% decline in timber cutting. Timber clear cuts create good habitat because the area then develops dense thickets preferred by deer.
“We have actually created a core group, there’s about eight of us that have gotten together” says Trees. “Myself not included as one of these landowners, but this core group either owns or controls over 60,000 acres; these are folks that have actually been managing the deer numbers and quality on their pieces of land. We’ve got everybody’s name, address, phone number and email address that was here tonight so we’ll stay in contact with them. We’ll be working with the National Forest Service, [and] of course the Game Commission.”
A coyote study is underway and it will run through December 2013. The National Forest in Bath and western Rockingham counties will be studied. Coyotes will be trapped and fitted with radio collars that will show their movements. Coyote scat will also be collected to determine their dietary patterns.
“The bounty is not going to get rid of the coyotes” says Trees, “they’re here to stay like the cockroach. The coyotes in my opinion are one of the biggest problems that’s killing the deer, the fawns especially. As you heard there is a predation study currently underway, a three year study that the Game Commission is doing to try to find out just exactly what effect are the coyotes having. Not only on the White Tail Deer, but Turkey, Grouse and other small game.”
To get more information or to get involved with managing the local deer population contact Bath County Supervisor Jon Trees at 540-279-4383.