All the pieces are in place. Just add deer!
From the Northern Crew:
With all the pieces in place, we are finally ready to trap! A large portion of the week was spent baiting sites of high deer activity.
Our search for the two does wearing low-battery collars continued. Although we have yet to retrieve the collars, the experience has been a lesson in patience and determination. Despite having to hike up and down steep slopes while battling the Potter County winter weather, the opportunity to spend time exploring among the trees was a great way to take a break from the busy trapping preparations.
Towards the end of the week, we finally started placing traps in the forest. Breaking out the trailer and ratchet straps, we began taking them to pre-determined trap sites. Unfortunately, bait activity did not always indicate deer presence. Several piles displayed possible signs of hungry birds and squirrels.
After allowing the deer a brief period to adjust to the traps in their woods, we will set the traps next week and have our first deer captures [optimism is a good quality to have as a deer trapper]. We are all very excited to get going. Capture and data processing equipment have been triple-checked, and we even did a mock deer capture demo to walk through the process with the new crew members.
We were also very fortunate this week to have Bret Wallingford come out to help us set up and test our rocket net equipment. The experience was very informative and was especially valued by members of the crew with no previous rocket net experience.
As always, the forest was filled with many wonders this week including a ton of trees scraped by porcupines, several ruffed grouse, beautiful snowy scenes, and a pileated woodpecker along one of our traplines. What many might consider the boring part of the season is almost over. Let the deer capturing begin! -Carolyn
Northern Crew LeaderPGC Deer and Elk Section
From the Southern Crew:
CRRRRunch! CRRRunch! That was the theme of last week as Saturday’s freezing rain and cold temperatures all week left a crusty layer of snow, a deer trapper’s worst nightmare. From prior experience, it seems like activity comes to a screeching halt once this occurs. I guess I would be reluctant to move too if I had to break through the ice with small, nimble hooves. However, deer still need to eat, and we did find a number of suitable spots where they’ve been feeding consistently. By the end of the week, we deployed our first batch of Clover traps, tied them open for the weekend, and will hopefully have our first captures by Tuesday [There is that optimism again!].
Mid-week we put on a demonstration for a Penn State mammalogy lab giving students insight into the daily happenings of deer research. Students got the chance to look at the equipment and tools we use, see what GPS collars look like, and set up and launch a couple rocket net shots. I know myself and the crew had opportunities to see field techniques like this when we were undergrads, and I’m glad more aspiring “wildlifers” get the chance to see what we do.
One afternoon, the crew and I set out on a mission to drop a collar from a doe who is still very much alive and well. She was captured and collared back in 2017. With the 3-year battery life deadline approaching, it’s time to remove that collar before it dies completely and is lost for good. We had initially thought this would be fairly straight-forward, but things are never as they appear. Using VHF telemetry, we were able to pick her up, and it seemed she was smack-dab in the middle of her usual home range. However, the signal was very bouncy and all over the place, and we never got close enough to use the drop-off device. One of these days, we’ll take another crack at it. Hopefully the next time she at least meets us halfway.
Now that preseason is over, we’ll try to get as many traps out as possible over the next few days. Keep your fingers crossed and wish us well for a successful first week of trapping!-Ben
Southern Crew LeaderPGC Deer and Elk Section
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