Manitoulin Island deer pop. in ‘good condition’

Photo by John Savage

MANITOULIN—The relatively mild weather and lack of snow on Manitoulin Island has provided a good news story for the deer population.

“We spoke with volunteers on the Island on February 17, as we do every year,” Wayne Selinger, area biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), told the Recorder on Tuesday. “Based on snow station data to date, snow depths are of no concern for deer this year on Manitoulin or the North Shore, thanks to several thaws. The volunteers involved in the discussion all seemed to be in agreement.”

Mr. Selinger told the Recorder the results are also now out in regards to the deer check station the MNRF held in November in Espanola as part of the Manitoulin Island deer gun hunt. “Analysis of the check station data has just recently been completed. MNRF again partnered with staff and students from College Boreal’s Fish and Wildlife program. We have been using the same location and hours of operation since 2006. Specifically, Wednesday through Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm, during the gun hunt. Without the assistance of College Boreal we would not be able to hold the check station.”

As for the number of hunters and deer that went through the check station Mr. Selinger said, “we do not count the number of hunters that go through the check. However, 480 deer were sampled, which is an increase from the 328 sampled in 2014 but still low compared to previous years. We are uncertain as to whether this reflects harvest trends or decreasing hunter participation, or both. We do know that some hunters either choose not to stop or happen to pass through Espanola outside of our hours of operation.”

“As many animals as possible were sampled to obtain sex, age, weight, antler measurements, lactation rates, etc,” continued Mr. Selinger. “Of note, antlerless harvest would appear to have increased in response to tag increases, which is good. The buck to doe ratio was 60:40, which is also good. Fawn harvest was lower than normal for the Island (18 percent of the total harvest). It is unknown whether that reflects fewer fawns on the landscape or more adult animals available for harvest. The buck harvest was once again dominated by yearlings. While this may not be of concern from a sustainability point of view it does limit the number of bucks that reach older trophy ages.”

“As far as the condition of the animals goes, fawn and yearling weights were better than normal for the Island,” said Mr. Selinger. “The fawns were in especially good condition despite the drought we experienced this past summer. Approximately one-quarter of the fawns sampled exceeded 80 pounds dressed, which is excellent for Manitoulin. The lactation rate for yearling does was also up as was mean antler beam diameter for yearling bucks. All three of these condition factors suggest that the population is in reasonable balance with available summer habitat,” said Mr. Selinger.

Mr. Selinger added, “tag allocations are not set until May. Prior to setting the 2017 tag allocations the MNRF has to first review the mail survey results and meet with the Manitoulin Deer Advisory Committee.”