Pellet transects are finally done and the fawn capture crews are on the job. Here’s to a fun, successful, safe season.
From the Northern Crew:
Dear deer people,
What an eventful week! I spent Monday down in Rothrock State Forest helping April complete her few remaining pellet transects. Then Thursday was the first day for our fawn capture crews, so we all attended orientation and training in State College. Allow me to introduce: Nate, Alec, Tom (left to right standing in the attached photo), Kate, and Josh (kneeling). Friday I planned on just checking the collared fawns from last year while giving my new crew a tour of the Susquehannock. But we ended up investigating a mortality and tracking down another VIT–busy day!
First thing Friday morning, DCNR notified us that one of our collared fawns from last year (now a yearling) was lying dead along the road. We figured this was a roadkill but we skinned the carcass to check for hemorrhaging to be sure. It was evident immediately. We also used this opportunity to conduct a mock mortality investigation by filling out the datasheet and taking photos like we would if the cause of death had been unknown [Great idea and use of the circumstance]. The crew and I will get plenty of experience with this over the next few months!
Continuing the day’s excitement, I got a VIT expulsion email from one of our collared does – the 2nd this year. We were all pumped to find our first fawn(s) of the season. I was especially excited because this was the first doe I successfully inserted a VIT in this winter and she was a big mama!
Before heading into the field, I double-checked that all our fawn collars were fully-charged and programmed correctly. We familiarized ourselves with the capture kit and discussed telemetry techniques for walking in on VITs and collars. Without much trouble at all, we found the VIT which was within eyesight of the road we had our trapline on this winter.
Fawn birthing site
Unfortunately, finding the fawns was not so easy. Even with a search party of 7 people combing the area for 1.5 hours, we came out empty-handed much to our humbled dismay [☹]. I’m blaming Friday the 13th for this one… but if we strike out again on the 3rd VIT, it won’t be pretty. Tears may be shed. [This has been really frustrating because when the technology works as planned we find the fawn(s) with no problem. This run of bad luck is extraordinary]
Also this week, I added a new species to my ever-growing list of PA flora, the stunning Painted Trillium! The only trillium I’m familiar with back in Wisconsin is Large-flowered (Trillium grandiflorum) which is plain white.
Here’s to better luck next week!
From the Southern Crew:
This week we finished the last 8 pellet transects in the Southern Study Area!! In total, we had 96 pellet transects to complete between the end of March and the beginning of this week.
Rhododendron and mountain laurel pellet transect route
We were left shorthanded when the deer trapping crew finished up early, so Bret and I completed the rest of the transects with occasional help from Chris, Hannah, Julie and the Forest Technicians from the District 5 office. Although time consuming, the pellet transects gave us opportunities to become familiar with places far from the major state forest roads and trails. This is often where neat photo opportunities arose.
Northern slimy salamander
Devil’s walking stick seedling
Eastern phoebe nest
Thursday, the north and south fawn capture crews came together for orientation at Penn State University. Here, the crews learned the specifics of the agency and fawn capture. On Friday, the crew toured Bald Eagle and I reviewed radio telemetry with them. We discovered that we now only have one radio-collared juvenile to follow from last summer. 8125 is now off-air, but 8395 is still on air in Rothrock.
I also uploaded all of the pellet survey data and got my equipment ready for fawn capture.
We plan to have a regular 40-hour week this week, unless the fawns begin to drop earlier than we expect. We’ll assess how the week went on Friday and then decide if we should plan to work the weekend. Monday, we’ll tour Rothrock State Forest. The crew will continue to become familiar with the state forest this coming week and we will begin searching for fawns. ☺