Hunting to save natural diversity

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Dennis Clay

The 2019 Washington Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulation lists all of the big game seasons, from Moose, to deer, elk, bear, mountain lion, etc. One of the categories is antlerless deer.

More than one reader was concerned and asked the same question when my computer began putting words on paper 30 years ago: Why do we hunt does? In fact, there are hunters who will not shoot a doe, but only a buck. Yet, there are reasons to hunt does.

The question was presented to a Fish and Wildlife biologist. His answer was to hand me a one-page paper explaining part of deer biology.

The paper discussed a problem with deer on an island in Puget Sound. There were 100 deer causing problems from eating plants in gardens, to being hit by vehicles at road crossings.

Fish and Wildlife offered 50 doe permits, which means the department wanted to reduce the deer population by half, thus, they speculated, would reduce the deer problems by half.

Reducing the deer population in half was accomplished during the fall hunting season. However, during the next spring, when does were giving birth to fawns, the deer population was again numbering 100. How can this happen?

Remember, Iím not a biologist, but, after talking with wildlife biologists over the past 30 years, this is my understanding.

When there is more nutritious food for a doe to eat, the animal is more likely to have twins or triplets. Therefore, it is possible for a deer herd to be cut in half one year, yet return to full strength in a year or two.

Also, if a doe is impregnated with twins or triplets and there is not enough food, the animal may abort one or more of the fawns.

There are, most likely, many more facets to this biological aspect of deer life, which are out of my educational range.

Another angle about too many deer

Fish and Wildlife is working to solve a problem more than a century in the making, which is overpopulation of deer putting pressure on birds, insects, and native plants on island habitats in Washington State.

Deer are over browsing native vegetation, which means less habitat for other species on San Juan and Island counties.

The stakes are high, including survival of the Island Marble butterfly, found nowhere except on San Juan Island.

Thought to be extinct since 1908, the butterfly was re-discovered by biologists during a prairie survey in San Juan Island National Historical Park in 1998.

Next week: A solution to the over population of deer.

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