Hunters Alert

Hunters Alert

Sunday, 25 March 2012 21:47

What happened to the mule deer?

Reprinted from the Las Vegas Review Journal

By Vin Suprynowicz

In 1988, hunters bought 51,011 deer hunting licenses in Nevada and harvested 26,784 mule deer.

In 2008, the Nevada Department of Wildlife sold 16,997 tags. Hunters bagged only 7,025 deer.

That's a huge decline. Where are the deer?

Oddly enough, whatever the problem is, it seems to affect only mule deer -- the species that generates most of the Department of Wildlife's revenue, when you consider that Uncle Sam matches deer tag revenue three-to-one.

Bighorn sheep populations are up. Antelope tags and harvests doubled over those same 20 years. Elk tags skyrocketed, from 182 to 2,723, with the elk harvest growing from 91 to 1,315.

It's hard to believe all those other species could thrive if the problem were drought or wildfires or fences or roads cutting off migration routes.

A state biologist says the apparent decline is due to cherry-picking 1988 as a starting point -- a wet year and a high point for the state's deer herd. Just six years earlier, for example, 23,053 hunters took only 11,954 deer in 1982. Current deer populations and harvests are only "slightly below" the historic average, according to Tony Wasley, the Nevada Department of Wildlife's expert on mule deer.

But a prominent hunting advocate, along with current and past members of the state Wildlife Commission, disagree. They paint a more ominous picture of a Californian re-appointed to head the agency as a political favor by Gov. Brian Sandoval after that same director, Ken Mayer, had been fired by former Gov. Jim Gibbons precisely for failing to take concrete steps to bring back a deer herd whose numbers have plunged so badly they may now be overestimated in pursuit of lucrative deer tag revenues.

They worry Mayer may have kept from his 27 years with California Fish & Game -- a state where mountain lions are experiencing a population explosion because they're no longer hunted, except when they take a jogger -- a reluctance to thin out predators, including lions and coyotes.

"For over two decades, NDOW has used 15 different excuses for Nevada's mule deer decline," argues activist Cecil Fredi of the group Hunter's Alert. "For the past few years, NDOW has used the habitat excuse. This is an excuse they can use for several more decades until their retirements kick in. It's hard to blame habitat when elk and deer occupy the same areas. Elk numbers have increased dramatically over the past two decades while deer numbers have dramatically declined," Fredi says. "The reason for this decline is that the main source of food for the mountain lion is the mule deer.

"Most biologists (but not NDOW's) believe that a lion will eat a deer a week," Fredi writes in a recent report with the attention-getting headline, "Nevada's deer will never recover." Fredi's main contention is that the state Department of Wildlife refuses to acknowledge any predator problem.

I called deer hunter and Wildlife Commissioner Scott Raine -- the immediate past chairman of the commission -- in Eureka, where he runs the town's only grocery, to ask him if Fredi's account is accurate.

"That's exactly correct," said Raine. "The mule deer population has just been crashing like a bomb in the past decade. They say, 'We don't know why it's happening, but it must be habitat.' When in doubt, blame the habitat. When you start talking about predation control, they don't even want to consider that part of the equation."

Gerald Lent, the now-retired Reno optometrist who chaired the Wildlife Commission for two years and served as vice chairman last year, but was not reappointed by Sandoval, recalls the commission approved spending $400,000 for predator control on mule deer and sage grouse. "Director Mayer fought against all these. He called the feds and shut down the sage grouse study."

Why would Mayer do that? "I don't know," says Lent. "He said the predator project to save the deer he wouldn't go along with. I think he's from California, where they outlaw predation projects."

I tried to reach Mayer for a response. He didn't return my calls, but delegated Wasley to answer my questions. Biologist Wasley says the very fact his position was created 2½ years ago demonstrates the department's commitment to maintaining the species.

"We have several predator control projects ongoing, and have spent millions of dollars in that arena," Wasley argues. "When we have removed a considerable number of predators, we have not been able to show any positive impact on game populations."

Lent has a different recollection. Under state law, "$3 per hunter is supposed to go to predator control. It's $300,000. So we put it into Area 014 west of the Gerlach Desert," Lent remembers. "The project was started in 2005 by (U.S.) Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. From 2005 when they started, up till now, in the smallest deer management area in the state, they've taken probably 45 lions out of there, killed them. In 2005, the deer population was 850. This is out of NDOW's own book. Right now they estimate 1,400 deer there in 2011 -- that's a 65 percent increase in deer population. ... Right across the road in Area 015, that area is going down, down, down. There's no lion control in there. The lions kill a deer a week."

Mr. Wasley responds, "There was no significant difference in the area Dr. Lent is referring to in comparison to areas where there was an absence of predator control."

I asked Lent is he believes NDOW is inflating the numbers of the current deer herd, which state officials put at about 109,000. "Absolutely," he said. "They cannot prove the deer went up 2 percent from 107,000 to 109,000. The deer tag money is matched three-to-one federally. It's their cash cow."

He went on: "We had a predator conference that we had on the agenda. Ken Mayer brought in his buddies he used to work with down in California, and they basically said predation by mountain lions had no effect on the deer population, and that's not true. See, you can't hunt mountain lions in California, and I think that philosophy comes over the mountains."

Mr. Wasley defends the department's current estimate of 109,000 mule deer in Nevada, arguing that number is arrived at by tripling the deer seen from helicopters in aerial surveys. "So for somebody to suggest that it's as small as half of our published estimate, that would suggest that what we're seeing is close to 70 percent of the deer in the state, which simply is not the case. If the numbers were that small, we would begin to see hunter failure. ...

"I'm not under any constraint," Mr. Wasley says. "The director hasn't come down here and told me, 'We're not gonna kill lions, we're not gonna kill coyotes.' If there was a way that I knew we could increase mule deer, I would do it today, for selfish reasons. I love mule deer. I love to hunt mule deer. ... If there was something we could do to create more opportunity for Nevada's deer hunters, we'd do it."

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of the novel "The Black Arrow" and "Send in the Waco Killers." See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011 13:31

NBU Distorts Truth

The below quasi-factual e-mail has been circulating on the NBU website:

Yesterday the Nevada Wildlife Commission, under the leadership of Chairman Raine and Vice Chairman Lent, decided to reduce Mule Deer quotas in Hunts 1331, 1341 and 1371 by 25%, except in areas 04,05, 15,18 and 23 where the quotas will be reduced by10% below NDOW 2011 recommendations. This extreme action was done despite protests from NDOW staff, the County Advisory Boards, and the public. Commissioners McBeath, Cavin and Wallace fought for 4 hours with arguments including the fact that the Commission was violating it’s [sic] own policies, and with seven amendments, but in the end did not have sufficient support from the balance of the Commission to prevent the action. Just prior to the vote, Deputy Director Cates, at the request of Commissioner McBeath, estimated the loss in revenue to be about $600,000.

 

Here is the truth that NBU failed to print:

 

NBU should really check their facts before sending these posts out. Raine voted with McBeath on the final vote. The motion that passed was as amended by a motion vote made by Wallace. Wallace and Cavin voted on opposite sides of the final vote. Raine and Lent voted on opposite sides of the final vote. The Commission did not violate any policy, and cited a wide variety of scientific evidence including hundreds of graphs, charts, scientific documents with conflicting conclusions, and WAFWA publications that forced it to take the action it did to help preserve healthy deer herds in Nevada. True, the issue of funding was brought up by McBeath, and that did bring up speculation by a few Commissioners that some opposition against the cuts could be based on selling out long term deer herd health for short term cash gains. The action to reduce quota to levels similar to the quota levels of a few years ago has also been widely supported by members of the public who understand the mule deer issue.

In their rush to bash the Commission, did anyone bother to mention that the Commission was genuinely worried about the health of the mule deer population? Did anyone bother to mention that the junior hunt quota actually increased? What about the fact that the proposed 2011 quota recommendation was about 12% higher than 2010 quotas while the deer population was about flat (1.8% increase by NDOW statistics with a published +/-  factor of 20%).

The quota as set puts the quota about where it was a few years ago when the deer population was at a level estimated by NDOW to be similar to the current population, with similar buck to doe ratios.

The essence of the Wildlife Commission meeting is that finally some Wildlife Commissions had the audacity to stand up to NDOW. These Commissioners proved that NDOW’s science is flawed and that they have been managing deer for the money, something that HUNTER’S ALERT stated decades ago. Of course, Commissioners McBeath, Cavin and Wallace did not show any leadership in this matter.

 

 

Findings of the Mule Deer Restoration Committee of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners

Passed unanimously on 18 November 2010

Nevada’s Failing Mule Deer Population

 

Preface:

Nevada statutes mandate that the Board of Wildlife Commissioners establish policies and adopt regulations necessary to the preservation, protection, management, and restoration of deer in Nevada. 

The Mule Deer Restoration Committee has reviewed at length the relevant scientific documentation on mule deer populations in Nevada and the west, including all publications it could find produced by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.  The committee has reviewed at length all input on mule deer management provided by CABMWs to the Wildlife Commission and this committee, and has included the input in these findings where appropriate.  After much consideration this Committee is presenting the following recommendations based on the best science available.  If followed, these recommendations will go far in restoring the deer population and the range to prime conditions throughout the State of Nevada.

Wednesday, 01 March 2006 00:00

Editorial 2006 Spring

If there is any hope at all for Nevada sportsmen, it is the November election and the 2007 legislative session. The mess sportsmen have been handed by the last two governors and their appointments to the Wildlife Commission can be overcome. To achieve this, it will take sportsmen to get involved. This will not require any of your money, only a few minutes of your time.

 

In order to make the necessary changes, we need to elect a governor who is a hunter. The last year sportsmen in Nevada had a governor who hunted was in 1979. In reality, hunters have been neglected for over 25 years! Unlike our current governor, Jim Gibbons will not lie to the sportsmen. He wants our deer brought back, again unlike our current governor, Kenny Guinn who has done nothing about this for eight years.

Wednesday, 06 June 2007 00:00

Fire 2007

From Wildhorse Ranch Fax Sheet, August 5, 2007: The deer, elk and antelope appear to be in good shape. If the Bruneau Valley had been well grazed, the fire would not have spread up the river valley from Mink Ranch to Marge Prunty’s. Game and Fish must be held accountable for their riparian bullshit. Game and Fish should have watched 200 head of Ellison Ranch sheep burn to death.

Recently this group circulated a petition to the governor to maintain their two Commission members on the Wildlife Commission. These two members were on Larry’s NBU Board prior to being appointed commissioners. No wonder he strongly favors keeping his commissioners in place and is criticizing anyone else who suggests any new members. Talk about a hypocrisy. It is also no wonder that he has made such a dramatic effort to keep his clones in place. They attend his meetings and react to what he says.

This group says that they have donated so much to NDOW that they DESERVE a say in how NDOW is managed and to appoint anyone else would be criminal! WOW!  They are really a few self-centered individuals who only believe in themselves and only listen to themselves. They think that they are the only ones who should have a say on wildlife issues in the state and consistently brag about how many dollars they have given to the state and that “entitles” Larry and his group to control wildlife in the state. Nothing could be further from the truth.

HUNTER’S ALERT is going to lay out what has been happening to all fish and game agencies for many years. Let’s start out with the Golden Rule, as everyone knows he who has the gold, makes the rules. This is exactly what is going on with the funding of all fish and game departments.

 

Where does the gold (money) come from to fund these agencies? There are two federal acts that are responsible for providing the funds. The Pittman-Robertson Act provides state fish and game agencies money for the management and restoration of wildlife. This funding is provided through an excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and other equipment.

 

Tuesday, 01 July 2008 00:00

Governor Jim Gibbons Keeps His Word

Unlike former Governor Kenny Guinn, Governor Jim Gibbons kept his word to Nevada’s deer hunters. Governor Gibbons’ appointments to the Wildlife Commission have been instructed to bring back our deer. A small group wanted to have their people reappointed to the Wildlife Commission. The governor must have realized that if they hadn’t done anything for our deer while they were serving  three years on the Wildlife Commission, then there was a strong indication that they had no intention to move forward on this very important task.  Leading is not about popularity.  Leading is doing what is best and that is what Governor Jim Gibbons did with his appointments to the Wildlife Commission. Here is a brief history of the people Gibbons has appointed to the Wildlife Commission.

 

Gerald Lent was appointed as a sportsmen’s representative from Washoe County. He has also served on the Washoe County Advisory Board. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. No one has spent more of their own time and money for sportsmen in our state than Gerald Lent. He has been responsible for the passage of many bills that have benefitted every sportsman in the state.

 

Tom Cavin will represent the sportsmen from rural counties. He has Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Management and is a charter member of the Nevada Wildlife Record Book Committee.

 

Grant Wallace represents farming and lives in Esmeralda County. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Systems Management from Cal. Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and is a member of the Esmeralda County Wildlife Advisory Board, as well as an avid hunter.

 

Mike McBeath was appointed as a sportsman representative from Clark County. He is currently a member of the Clark County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife.

 

These new commissioners will bring with them fresh ideas which are long overdue. Jim Gibbons is to be commended for his new appointments.

Tuesday, 01 July 2008 00:00

Good News---Bad News Debute

For twenty years, HUNTER’S ALERT has kept the sportsmen informed with our newsletters.  The newsletter has always been truthful and the information generated wasn’t found in other publications. Sportsmen continually wanted to know when the next newsletter would be published. By the time we could publish, some of the news was old news.

 

HUNTER’S ALERT will continue to publish a newsletter. However, today there is a much quicker way to disseminate information.  Of course, that is the HUNTER’S ALERT website. HUNTER’S ALERT is going to get more active in posting information on the website. Again, it will be information you probably won’t read anywhere else.

 

A new feature will appear on our website starting this month. The new feature will be called “Good news---Bad news”.  It will let sportsmen know what is currently happening in a more timely manner. Here is the first posting:

 

July—Bad news—NDOW had their hands once again in the 2008 Big Game Tag Draw. Good News—Concerned hunter organizations will be going to the next legislative session to prevent this from happening ever again. The proposal is that everyone will have the results of the tag draw with 48 hours of the drawing. What sportsman wouldn’t want this?

 

Be sure to write down this email address for the latest information: www.huntersalert.org.

A link to the Good News - Bad News Section

Tuesday, 01 July 2008 00:00

Editorial-2008

Good times are coming for the people who are concerned about the loss of our deer. The newly appointed Wildlife Commissioners have been told by Governor Jim Gibbons to bring back our deer. It won’t be easy nor will it be quick. Let’s review who was responsible for the loss of these deer and why it happened.

 

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