From the Northern Crew:
We survived the Polar Vortex! Frozen extremities and -10°F mornings aside, we couldn’t have asked for a better first week of trapping – 24 total captures of 14 individual deer. All of Clover traps are set and running on 5 different traplines throughout the study area. While some are more active than others, every line provided at least some capture excitement. We deployed 3 GPS collars this week (2 female, 1 male), so our collar quota for the southern portion of the study site is just about complete. The other lucky individuals received sporty new sets of ear tags.
Even though we had an initial boom of success, opportunities for new captures seemed to wane as the week progressed. By Thursday, traplines that had once seemed so promising are now being either missed or fed upon by previously caught deer from both the current and previous seasons.
While catching new deer is the goal, recaptures are fascinating in their own way (more tackling practice!), especially those deer trapped from prior years. Not only do you find out that the individual animal lived to fight another year, but it’s also intriguing to look at their history.
For instance, the entire crew has served as buck fodder for one particularly large male on two separate occasions (trust me, no desire for a third meeting). After wrestling him down, writing down the digits from his tags, and sending him on his merry way, we discovered that he had been initially caught and GPS collared back in March 2017, on the very same trapline making him at least 4.5 years old. He was also recaptured twice during the winter of 2018, so suffice to say he’s willing to risk it to grab a free meal. Despite multiple chances to collar him again, we don’t need to as we already have another collared buck in that area. One might say he’s done his time for the Deer-Forest study and earned his freedom.
Another notable capture from this week involved an already tagged adult doe with a similar background. Collared back in 2017 and recaptured twice in 2018, she too lacks her tracking necklace. Her response to us handling her also seemed to indicate she’d been through the routine before. She appeared healthy, but was bizarrely well-behaved and calm while we restrained and verified her ID. I guess they’re all individuals and have unique personalities.
With the incoming heat wave next week (30’s!), we’re optimistically hoping some fresh deer activity on the current traplines. However, we have been baiting other areas as well to keep our options open for trap relocation. One of our rocket sites has also shown consistent activity. We probably would have trapped there by now, but the frigid night time temperatures have not been fit for man or beast. Hopefully next week we have success there!
Field Crew Leader
PGC Deer and Elk Section
From the Southern Crew:
Bright and early Monday morning we were out baiting and setting our clover traps for the week. The previous week left the forest a sheet of ice, but by Monday we were able to access all our clovers. With 15 clovers out, we were very excited for what the week would have in store. We even sat at our first rocket net. Unfortunately, our 6PM group didn’t show and we decided to pack it up around 9:30PM.
With the frigid temperatures the rest of the week, we were unable to rocket net again for the safety of the crew and the deer. So, we put our full attention on Clover trapping and finding new sites. The Clovers delivered with 8 total captures for the week. We were hoping for success on Friday since we had a volunteer but ended up getting skunked!
We are up to 12 total deer captures allowing the crew to get a lot of valuable experience early in the season. We also had our first mortality signal. We were hoping to just find a kicked collar but ended up finding a deer. The crew did a great job locating the deer using our telemetry equipment, conducting the field investigation, and getting the deer out…which was an adventure. If you are familiar with the hills in Rothrock, our deer was down in a valley and across a creek. You can imagine the challenge it was to carry it back to the truck for transport to Penn State for necropsy.
All together, we had a successful week of trapping. Sunday, we will finalize our new trap line in Bald Eagle and begin working there for a week or two. We are also planning on rocket netting once or twice this week depending on the weather. The warmer forecast should be a nice change!
Field Crew Leader
If you would like to receive email alerts of new blog posts, subscribe here.
And Follow us on Twitter @WTDresearch