From the Northern Crew:
Dear Deer People,
This past week has been busy with final preparations for deer trapping.
On Monday, the crew went to work placing bait at all the sites we marked while there was still snow. Then finished the rest of the Clover trap repairs.
On Tuesday, we investigated a doe collar that had gone into mortality mode. When we found what was left of the carcass, it was very hard to tell what had all happened. The previous night we had gotten a few inches of snow, so everything was covered, including the tracks. No skull, no ear tags, the collar laid not too far amongst tuffs of deer hair. With so little to work with, we took some pictures and swabs of what we could and decided to haul out the findings for further lab analysis.
After investigating the mortality, I was determined to get the last 3 collars on the “need to blow off” list retrieved. Thankfully the one collar that we had chased for over 2 hours the week before was much closer and not too hard to find. We found the last three collars just in time to call it a day.
On Wednesday, it was an early start for CPR training. We learned a lot of live saving information and skills. I hope we never have to use them. I met with Tess to give her the 10 collars that we had gathered and in return was given 11 brand new collars to start put out when deer capture starts. Bret gave us more supplies so we are ready to go for a successful season.
Deer have found out bait sites! The fresh deer tracks and all of the corn completely gone was exciting to see.
Brian and I went out to start chipping into the “blow off if you have time” collar list. One collar was close to the trap line we had just checked. The last time that this collar admitted a GPS point was in May of 2017. I could hear the signal from that point, but it sounded like a heartbeat rhythm rather than a syncopated metronome. Long story short, I ended up tracking it to a small, frozen over, excavated pond. The signal was very loud. Especially so when I stood in the middle of the pond and pointed the antenna down. I chiseled a hole in the ice after being able to pin-point the signal without the antenna attached, but the water was almost 6 feet deep. I was unable to fish the collar out of the dark, mucky depths of the pond, but took a GPS point and headed back to the office.
The next day, I got my waders, rakes, and hopeful thoughts, and headed back to “The Pond.” I had to re-chisel the hole in the ice, double checked the signal with the receiver, and slinked my way into the water. The water was about 4 feet deep and when my feet reached the bottom, I felt something hard. I felt around with my feet and thought it felt like a collar. I tried to pull it up with one rake with no luck, so I used both rakes like chop sticks in my second attempt, nothing. I was sure it was a collar. I used my feet, then the rake to pull it up. IT WAS THE COLLAR!!! I was ecstatic. It is still hard to believe that we were able to hear the VHF signal from under 4 feet of water, 2 inches of ice and from over a half of a mile away after it had been submerged in water for 8 months!
We set out Clovers on our hottest trapline and will continue this week placing as many traps at our bait sites as we can. And be catching deer by the end of the week. I am hoping that we don’t get too much rain and that the temperatures can return to normal with some snow.
Field Crew Leader
From the Southern Crew:
The crew continued baiting and Clover trap repairs.
Tuesday, the snow began falling after about an hour into our baiting efforts and continued throughout the day. So needless to say, our corn piles got covered up within hours. It was great to have some snow to help search for deer activity, though.
Wednesday, all trapping crews met for our First Aid and CPR Training. The crew leaders met with Tess to pick up GPS collars. Tess also informed me that she discovered there was a buck mortality in the Southern Study Area.
Thursday morning, Nick and Graham went to Bald Eagle to see how our sites made out. Randi and I went to Rothrock to search for Buck 12776, which was trapped in 2016 as an 8 point. We utilized telemetry to locate the carcass underneath the snow. The carcass was heavily scavenged, but some muscle on the neck remained. The buck had lost an antler at some point, so only the right side was still intact. Based off of camera footage I saw this summer, I believe he was a wide 11 point. The carcass was frozen to the ground and hard to manipulate. We took what notes we could and dragged it out with us.
Bait sites were hit or miss for deer activity. Only two in Rothrock had been completely devoured and a few others had been nibbled upon. Many sites had tracks and in some cases heavy trails within 5-10 meters of the sites. The Bald Eagle sites were similar. Corn was covered with about 5 inches of snow, so that didn’t help much. Since the sites weren’t as active as we had hoped, I decided we had better wait until next week to put out Clover traps.
Friday, we searched for VIT Doe 17168. We easily located the doe and discovered we were close to her! We transmitted the drop-off signal. After about a half hour, we found the signal in the valley between the two ridges. We transmitted the drop-off signal again, just for good measure. The signal was close. A short 40 meter hike in and there lay the collar with fresh tracks and a bed site! Doe 17168 has been a favorite among our trapping and fawn capture crews for the past year and things have come full circle for her collar. I definitely plan to keep my eye out for her!
We conducted a mort run along with our collar search effort. We came around a corner and saw a small cat sitting on the road. I instantly thought house cat, but nope, it was a young bobcat! After collar retrieval, Nick and I headed back to the nursery to call it a day and another bobcat crossed the road in front of us! This time it was a much bigger cat! Talk about luck!
We are working Sunday to check sites so we can get traps out on Monday. We will get a few rocket nets set up and continue to bait. We will see what the warm weather brings us in terms of deer activity.
Field Crew Leader
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