It’s March! That means longer days, less white, more green, and brackets galore. Selection Sunday announced the 68 teams heading to this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Bracket-mania has begun!

Diehard fans and causal observers alike are rushing to fill out a tournament bracket to see if they can predict the winner of the coveted championship. Each year more than 70 million brackets are filled out.

If you have never heard of Selection Sunday, March Madness, or a bracket, you might be my co-author. But I can’t really point fingers. The only reason I am a March Madness fan is because I went to school in North Carolina. It is difficult not to be when you are surrounded by NCAA tournament schools and EVERYONE is completely consumed by it.

Basketball, like most other sports, has clear winners and losers. And a one-and-done tournament shakes that out pretty quickly.

North American wildlife management plans recently had a tournament. And you’re not going to believe who won!

Ok, so it wasn’t really a tournament and there was no prize…except maybe for bragging rights.

Here in North America we use what has been coined the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. A key part of the model is that policy is implemented by using science.

But does it? Enter March wildlife management plan madness. A group of Canadian and American researchers created a bracket and let the chips fall where they may. Their results were just published in the journal Science Advances.

The authors identified four criteria that should comprise scientific wildlife management and be incorporated into management plans:

  1. Measurable objectives
  2. Evidence (collect quantitative information)
  3. Transparency (explain how data are analyzed and make the information available to the public)
  4. Review (subject management plans to independent review)

There were 62 provincial, territorial, and state wildlife agencies interviewed about their management plans for 27 species (or species groups, e.g., upland birds). Over 660 different species management plans made up this bracket!

Guess who claimed the continental title for first place deer management plan? That’s right – the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

There was actually a 4-way tie among the Game Commission’s deer plan and Montana’s bighorn sheep, Washington’s Mountain goat and bighorn sheep, and Wisconsin’s deer management plans.

The authors noted that Pennsylvania met their criteria for having measurable objectives, quantitative evidence, and transparency. Pennsylvania might not have had to share the title if the Game Commission had been credited with subjecting their deer management plan to independent review.

We are not going to cry foul or blame the refs for a questionable call, but we would like to point out that the foundational methods used by the Game Commission’s deer management plan have been evaluated and published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Just saying.

Working together, the Game Commission, Penn State University, and the U.S. Geological Survey have published these peer-reviewed methods:

  1. How harvests are estimated (Rosenberry et al. 2004)
  2. Sampling for chronic wasting disease (Diefenbach et al. 2004)
  3. How deer productivity is monitored (Rosenberry et al. 2011)
  4. How public input is incorporated into the Deer Management Plan (Fleegle et al. 2013)
  5. How populations are estimated (Norton et al. 2013)
  6. How well antler point restrictions work (Wallingford et al. 2017)

March Madness may just be heating up the courts but Pennsylvania’s Deer Management Plan has been grinding it out for a decade. And we can’t say this recognition isn’t satisfying.

-Duane Diefenbach
Jeannine Fleegle

(Unfortunately, Penn State did not get an invitation to the Big Dance,
but the NC State Wolfpack did!  
Go Pack!!! – JTF)

On March 19, 2018, this post was updated to clarify the rating was attributed to the Game Commission’s deer management plan, not the program.

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