Thursday, October 17, 2013

Coyotes and S.C. white-tailed deer management

Coyote predation of deer fawns is very real;
fawn hoofs from October 2013

The overall population of whitetails has declined in recent years in the Palmetto State. The reasons for this slide include the introduction of new predators and a change in rural land management. What exists now is the chance for both the hunters and the non-hunting public to embrace a new normal. Hunters are recording more trophy buck harvests due to quality management, and fewer deer means less of a nuisance to the public. The QDMA National Convention held in July came to Athens, Georgia and the organization that was founded in the Lowcountry by Joe Hamilton is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Dr. Karl Miller is a long time deer scientist as a professor of wildlife biology at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry. Heading into deer season, hunters may ask themselves what do deer think about? Dr. Miller states that they think about what they can eat, and how not to get eaten.
“The question we hear the most is what should I do about the coyotes,” said Miller. “What we see in Georgia might not apply exactly in S.C. but for starters landowners need to monitor what’s happening on their property or deer lease. If you see coyote paw prints and droppings that does not mean you have a problem. When they begin to hurt fawn recruitment, THEN you have a problem.”
 “A trail camera survey is something that I can highly recommend as a way to monitor things,” said Miller. “Annual whitetail population recruitment should be at about one fawn per doe that lives to be six months old. If that number drops to one-half fawn per doe than that’s bad. This latter result sets up a simple choice for the future, either remove the coyotes or plan on removing fewer does.”
“Georgia has already reduced the number of either sex days in an attempt to reduce the doe harvest,” said Miller. “Opportunistic culling of coyotes by hunters can never hurt, but overall I don’t think this will add up to make a difference. There is a right time and a right way to remove coyotes, and I’d like to add that people need to be aware that misguided removal attempts serve to educate the coyotes, making them terribly tough to remove afterwards.”
“Some coyotes are more territorial while some groups are more transitory,” said Miller. “All of them have different home ranges, but the territorial coyotes are the ones to target. Staking steel traps in the ground to remove coyotes is best done in late spring and early summer, which is during the time of fawn production. Trapping on a small property is admirable, but it takes this type of effort on 1000-acres or more for best results.”

To read my feature article on coyotes and deer management click on Charleston Mercury.

To view past blog entries about white-tailed deer management click here.

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