Devon Deer Management – Is It Necessary?
Is Devon Deer Management Really Necessary?
Whether we are willing to admit it or not Devon Deer Management Group as well as most deerstalkers want high deer populations on the areas we hunt. This is a natural desire since frequent interactions with deer are what we seek. The cost involved in the upkeep of 4 wheel drive vehicles, 4 wheelers, trailers and cold storage larders as well as the steadily rising cost of diesel added to the everyday rise out of bed at 4am to implement a Devon deer management plan, yes it’s really nice to at least see deer! Devon Deer Management Group cares about the overall health of the entire herd and an active Devon Deer Management plan will keep that in balance with the available cover and food source availability.
Devon Deer Management Is Necessary
LACS – The League Against Cruel Sports completely disagree with Devon deer management of any type. They have their own Deer sanctuary called Baronsdown. Baronsdown has been sheltering deer since 1959 when it set up the Baronsdown sanctuary as a symbol of its commitment to ending deer hunting. It has faced accusations that its methods of managing deer go against traditional approaches where the animals are regularly culled by shooting to prevent overpopulation. The result, say critics, is that the deer have become diseased or malnourished because of lack of food due to overcrowding.
Devon Deer Management – What’s to know and what’s to do? You just buy the land and keep the hunters out, and everything works out great – right?
Well, maybe not. Devon Deer Management is very much a necessity.
Proof can be seen at the wildlife “sanctuary” managed by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) at Baronsdown in Somerset, U.K. The romantics at the League got a big bequest some time back, and put it into acquiring 225 acres, which they decided to use as a “deer sanctuary.” The first thing they did, of course, was to stop stalking and therefore managing the deer. The deer population skyrocketed and without proper Devon Deer Management the deer started stripping all the vegetation from the woodlands and fields.
So what did the folks at LACS do then? That’s right — they began feeding the deer in winter.
Of course even more deer showed up, and soon an area of just 225 acres had more than 300 deer on it. The animals, still hungry and now even more overcrowded, began eating each other’s feces, thereby spreading flukes and worms across the entire herd. Reports that the deer were sick were summarily dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sport’s know-nothing spokesperson that said, “We really don’t accept there’s a problem.”
South West Deer Group and Devon Deer Management Group hear this frequently from people concerned for the wellbeing of individual deer without taking into consideration the purpose of a Devon Deer management plan. Devon Deer Management Group and Devon Deer Management plans promote a healthy and balanced herd of deer.
What happened next was as predictable as the tides: Animals already crowded and stressed got weaker, setting the stage for a more serious kind of pathology to ride in and take the herd. This time it was tuberculosis.
The end result: about half of the Baronsdown deer herd died in a single year, and more deer deaths followed in subsequent years.
A simple Devon Deer management plan could have saved those deer from starvation and disease, not to mention the fear of tuberculosis spreading. Devon Deer management would have selectively culled the herd to populations sustainable on the land. Is this cruel – No – Devon deer management is the responsible stewardship of our natural heritage.
Is Devon Deer Management Culling Cruel?
Lets talk a little about the way those 150 deer died at Baronsdown and compare it to a Devon Deer management-culling plan. The deer herd at Baronsdown is so overcrowded and sick that regular people are now stopping by the road to get out of their cars in order to engage in mercy killings of weak dying animals staggering near the fence line. They are dying of starvation, enteritis, fluke worms and parasites and tuberculosis. Proper Devon Deer management would never have allowed population levels to rise beyond the carrying capacity of the land.
The British Deer Society tried to work with LACS and keep herd management issues separate from the hunting debate, but LACS has continued to ignore reality. Veterinary Advisor Peter Green decided he had to speak out. He has described what is going on at Baronsdown in plain and simple language:
“During a two hour period some fifty red deer were carefully observed; none were in good condition. Many were judged to be poor and several were classed as emaciated. Many were showing signs of enteritis [diarrhea] and loose feces were widespread on the ground. One yearling staggie in poor condition was too weak to jump a sheep fence.”
That message is that wildlife management issues such as Devon deer management should be left to skilled stalkers and Devon deer management professionals who actually have degrees in wildlife management as well as Deer management qualifications, and not to philosophers and unemployed anarchists.
If there is good news, it is this: The League Against Cruel Sports does not own or control very much land, and most deer herds in England are under professional management and subject to regulated hunting. As a result, the Countryside Alliance reports, “There are more deer in the U.K. now that at any time since the Norman Conquest.”
While the impacts of nutritional stress associated with overpopulated deer herds have been well documented, the impacts of social stress in overpopulated herds are relatively poorly understood. Deer are highly social animals. Does form matriarchal groups with well–established pecking orders. In most cases, the oldest doe is the most dominant with her female offspring and their offspring holding lower social positions. Devon Deer management is about creating an equal balance.
Well–established social positions minimize unnecessary energy expenditure and help maintain social order. For example, when food is scarce, the dominant doe will eat before subordinate does and yearling bucks. This type of behavior also is exhibited during the fawning period. The matriarchal doe seeks the most desirable and productive fawning areas to raise her offspring. Consequently, less dominant does are relegated to lower quality fawning areas. As doe numbers increase, the social structure of these groups becomes more complex and unstable. It is necessary to cull excess deer using an organized Devon Deer management plan.
Devon Deer Management – Deer Densities
Interestingly, researchers have found that as deer density increases the survival rate of fawns decreased. In other words, while there are more does to raise offspring, fewer were successful at rearing young due to density–related stress. There is a direct correlation between the fawning success of does and their social rank within the herd. Neonatal mortality is due primarily to fawn abandonment and imprinting failure as a result of territorial behavior at high densities impeding the ability to establish fawning territories. In other words, the lack of fawn–rearing space for subordinate does resulted in higher fawn mortality. Therefore, even in situations with unlimited food, social stress can influence fawn survival, recruitment, and individual vigor.
What are the Devon Deer management implications of this research?
It has been demonstrated that even with unlimited access to high quality feeds, social stress caused by overpopulation has profound negative effects on a deer herd. At high densities, the resulting social disorder increases competition for available food, increases energy expenditure, decreases fawn survival and reduces the overall health of the herd. Deer are not livestock and should not be managed accordingly. Regardless of whether a property is attempting to practice traditional Devon deer management, quality deer management, or even trophy deer management, deer density must be considered independent of nutrition when establishing a Devon deer management plan.
The problem from a Devon deer management standpoint is identifying the population level at which social stress begins causing these impacts. Devon deer management plans should implement responsible management programs that prevent social stress and other negative ramifications of overpopulation from occurring in the first place. Simply controlling the deer density on the estate by harvesting an adequate number of adult does will prevent habitat damage, maintain herd health, maximize harvest opportunities, and eliminate the potential for social stress. Even if your deer herd has not reached a high enough level to cause “measurable” damage, don’t we as responsible Devon deer management owe it to these wonderful animals to do all possible to allow them a healthy and natural existence? Devon Deer Management Group thinks so – Contact Us