To the Expositor:
Last year was a good year for the large deer herds on Manitoulin and the North Shore. Abundant moisture and favourable weather promoted very good forage crops and oak acorns were plentiful. This all ended in mid November with the onslaught of an early winter dominated by extreme and unrelenting cold temperatures and almost daily snowfall. The possibility of extremely high mortality appears to be virtually inevitable.
Over the years, local fish and game clubs and municipal councils have developed a process of partnering with the local Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) in an attempt to manage the deer herd in a humane and sustainable way. In mid-January, members teleconference and discuss the situation.
Each year local citizens on the Deer Management Committee share snow condition information from across Manitoulin in an attempt to crystal ball what winter conditions will be and what response is needed, if any. If conditions necessitate action, trail breaking, cutting browse or feeding with hay, oats and corn are options.
In early February a second teleconference call monitors the conditions again and usually no further action is required. Any further action would require property owners’ permission. Thus in 2010, the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council compiled a list of property owners and identified core deer yards in preparation for a time when action was needed.
It was obvious as January reached its end this year that something would be required. The problem is the MNR does not consider the implementation of a plan necessary and, further, that no funding is available. What we thought was an agreed upon course of action was not to be.
In 2008, the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council conducted a socio-economic study of the value of the deer hunt. It was determined that the hunt provides some $16 million annually in direct benefits to the Island community. The spin off of indirect provincial benefits would be another $48 million annually. Further, approximately 8,500 licenced hunters deposit (8,500 x $47.30) $402,050 to the Special Purpose Account. And MNR cannot come up with any funding?
If proper action is not forthcoming within the very near future, we will likely lose from 20 to 30 percent of our herd. It has happened before and is likely to happen this winter. There is a price attached to a “let nature take its course” lack of action. It often takes 8 to 10 years for a population to recover, if conditions are favourable. Secondly, the MNR has a duty to manage our resources in an equitable and sustainable way.
Yours in conservation,
Jim Sloss, chairperson
United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin