Deer management group backs unit tag reduction

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

KAGAWONG—Members of the Manitoulin Deer Management Advisory Committee have agreed that the number of antlerless deer tags allocated for Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 43A should be reduced a little further this year, and the deer tag allocation should remain the same for WMU 43B.

“In the recent deer tag allocations for 43A, the tags numbered 1,500, and this was cut another 500 last year. We saw a 60 percent draw success in 2011,” said Wayne Selinger, biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) at a meeting last week. “For 43A, the hunting pressure is middle of the road. Deer density is about stable and the harvest is way down. This, on top of the fact we have had three successive mild winters which means we should see a good crop of fawns this year. Our objective is to increase the deer populations on the West End of the Island, so I am recommending the allocations remain status quo. There is no reason for increasing them on the West End, so my proposal is to have a quota of 500.” He noted the overall hunter success rate in 2011 was under 30 percent in WMU 43A.

“If we had gone to 700-800 last year things would be a lot worse this year in terms of deer population,” said Lyle Addison. “I’m glad you are proposing the quotas be reduced down to 500. In my survey of several hunt camps, everyone agrees we need to allow the populations to increase. We had another excellent winter for deer, but it will take a while for the populations to get back.”

However, “I would recommend we decrease the quota another 100 (to 400),” said Mr. Addison. “Some hunters may not get a tag, but it will allow the deer population to come back quicker.”

Mr. Selinger acknowledged, “there isn’t a huge deer population on the West End of the Island.”

“I’m very happy to hear what Lyle is saying,” said Jim Sloss, chair of the United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin (UFGCM). He noted there is a problem with fisher numbers on the Island, saying, “something has certainly happened to our fawn population, because of fisher, bear, coyotes, wolves or other predator animals. My club passed a motion recommending we maintain the overall level of antlerless deer tags allocated across the Island.”

Ian Anderson, on behalf of the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club (GBFGC), said his club discussed the issues as well, and “our resolution was unanimous in maintaining the tag allocations for 43A and 43B, unless it was agreed to lower them down even further. Since deer populations are down in 43A, I think I can speak on behalf of our club that we would agree with Jim and Lyle that 400 is reasonable until we see the deer populations rebound.”

The committee members unanimously agreed to the reduction to 400 of the deer tags allocated for WMU 43A.

Mr. Selinger had provided information on such things as vehicle-deer collisions over the past year, 2011 hunt results, deer seen per hunt day, per hunter success rates, and harvest numbers. As for a deer check station for the 2012 seven-day deer hunt season, “hopefully we will be able to have a deer check station this fall, but I can’t guarantee it at this time.”

In the latest statistics the deer harvested in 43A was 293, and 2,696 in 43B, showing the decline continues on the West End.

“I think there are predator issues on the West End, more prevalent than on the east end, but the biggest problem is the decreasing quality of habitat for deer,” said Mr. Selinger. He said when QUNO used to cut timber on the west end the deer habitat quality was much better than it is currently. “Overall their is some promise being shown in terms of deer numbers in the east, but the west (WMU) is struggling,” he said.

Mr. Selinger said some hunters have suggested the reduction in deer population, is due to the length of the overall hunt on the Island, with for instance archery and black powder seasons. However, hunter success for the rifle season is 45 percent of the entire harvest, archery at 20 percent and 15 percent for the muzzle loader season between the years 2008-2010. “The muzzle loader season has had basically no consequence overall. The seven-day (gun) hunt has by far the highest rate of deer kill.”

Mr. Selinger said the tag allocations for antler less deer tags for 43B are at the top end of the range allocations provincially, while it would be in the middle of the pack for 43A.

“As for winter severity there wasn’t much snow this winter, so we expect there will be a good fawn recruitment in 2011,” said Mr. Selinger.

The number of people trapping predator animals may not be large on the Island, but the number of coyotes in the area from Central Manitoulin to Gordon seems to be declining, said Mr. Anderson, who has trapped 97 over the past three years. However, “there is still a bunch on the West End.”

“My goal on the east end is to maintain the deer herd,” Mr. Selinger told the meeting. “I would be okay if the quota remained where it is at 3,500.” There was a 67 percent hunter draw success in 2011 at 3,500 tags.

“The deer numbers have gone up substantially in this area (Kagawong). I don’t hear the coyotes howling at night as much as in the past,” said Bobby Tuomi. “I’m seeing more deer, and I think with the fawn crop this will increase drastically this year.” He suggested the allocations should be increased from 3,500.

Local farmer Bill Orford told the meeting he owns 1,600 acres and has seen between 80-90 deer this year. Lee Hayden noted in Gordon-Barrie Island there is a good numbers of deer and they are healthy. “My (municipal) council would support the quota at 3,500, but if we have another mild winter the numbers could explode.”

The meeting agreed, almost unanimously to the tags allocated for 43B be set at 3,500.