Sunday, 19 August 2012 16:33

Nevada’s Deer Will Never Recover Featured

Written by Hunter's Alert
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By Cecil Fredi

Reprinted from The Nevada Rancher, April 2012 -

The definition of fraud is to misrepresent the truth to take money away from a person or persons. It appears this is exactly what Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has been doing for decades to Nevada deer hunters. Using NDOW’s statistics, in 1988 there were 250,000 deer in our state. Today their estimates are 105,000. Knowledgeable people believe that the real number is much lower. The reason for NDOW’s allegedly inflated numbers is that they can sell more deer tags thus creating more revenue for the agency.

Currently, a reputable outside independent agency with two PH.D’s on staff is doing a study on the decline of deer numbers in Nevada.  This project has had many setbacks. NDOW refused to provide them with the deer data. It took the Wildlife Commission (Jim Gibbons’ good appointees) using freedom of information act requests on two separate occasions to obtain the needed information. Why was this necessary? What are they hiding?  NDOW director Ken Mayer did everything possible to insure the independent firm did not receive the information for them to do their study.  Because of NDOW’s stonewalling, the project has been set back over a year.

When the initial findings are released, a peer review should be initiated. The collected data should be sent to many specialists for their findings, akin to a doctor’s second or third opinion. Rest assured that Ken Mayer will fight all of this. What is NDOW afraid of?  If they were doing their jobs and not cooking the books on deer numbers, they should have nothing to hide. In fact, they should welcome this review to put all of this speculation to rest. But they won’t.

At a Wildlife Commission meeting, Paul Dixon, Chairman of Clark County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife threatened to sue this contractor if there was anything negative stated about NDOW’s science. Apparently, Mr. Dixon doesn’t care about the truth. NDOW’s science can’t be too good when they admitted that they use some of Utah’s data for determining the number of deer tags in our state.  How is that for bogus science?

For over two decades, NDOW has used 15 different excuses for Nevada’s mule deer decline.  For the past few years, NDOW has used the habitat excuse. This is an excuse that they can use for several more decades till 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 drastically declined. The reason for this decline is that the main source of food for the mountain lion is the mule deer.

Most biologists believe (but not NDOW’s) that a lion will eat a deer a week. However, NDOW refuses to acknowledge that we have a predator problem. It took two sportsmen’s organizations, Hunters Alert and Nevada Hunters Association to get a bill passed in 2001 in order to fund predator control which is done by Wildlife Services. NDOW is not going to and never has done any predator control work.   How bad is the lion problem in our state? In Hunt Unit 014, which is one of the smallest units in the state, Wildlife Services removed 40 mountain lions in three years. This means 480 deer or bighorn sheep are still alive because of this lion removal.

I’m not the only one who believes fish and game agencies have corrupted themselves. Guy Eastman, famous outdoor writer and photographer, recently wrote an article called Predator Death Spiral. He named the article to explain what happens when “a wildlife agency attempts to hide or “pad” their big game population estimates when over predation begins to take hold”.  I would urge everyone concerned with wildlife to read this very explosive and truthful article. Look for him at www.eastmans.com/guy/2011/11/the-predator-death-spiral/.

Let’s prove why NDOW director Ken Mayer and Governor Sandoval’s appointments to the Wildlife Commission led by Chairman Mike McBeath will not do anything about not only deer but all big game in our state. In August, 2008 the wolf was declared a big game animal in the state. This was done by Governor Kenny Guinn’s appointees led by Wildlife Commission chairman Clint Bentley and NDOW director Ken Mayer. The re-introduction of wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, has decimated their big game herds.  One area in Idaho has lost 90% of its elk because of wolves. . With leadership like this, not only will the deer never return, but like other states, all big game will be decimated. When this occurs, be sure to thank Clint Bentley, Ken Mayer, Mike McBeath and the rest of Governor Sandoval’s appointees to the commission.

Jim Gibbons’ good Wildlife commissioners (6 of 9) instructed Ken Mayer that if there was never any evidence of wolf packs in Nevada, the wolf was to be deleted from the big game animal classification. Ken Mayer refused to do this. A the December 3, 2011 Wildlife Commission meeting led by Chairman Mike McBeath, the Commission voted to keep the wolf as a big game animal. Currently, the wolf is a federally protected species. However, at some point, the control of wolves will be the right of each state.  If proven that there were no wolves in Nevada, it could then be classified as an unprotected predator.

In 1929, the black bear in Nevada was classified as a big game animal. It was not until 2011, 82 years later, that a season and quota was set. All of this, of course, was under the objection of director Ken Mayer. Judging from this past history, there would never be a season set on wolves until all species of big game were depleted in Nevada.

Wildlife Commissioner Scott Raine worked long and hard on a new Mule Deer Management Guidelines (Policy 28).  It was a 13 point program necessary to preserve, protect, manage, and restore wildlife and its habitat. The committee was composed of people like Cliff Gardner and John Carpenter who had witnessed the Ruby Valley deer migration which numbered in the thousands in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Today the migrations are all but gone because there are no deer. At the December 2011 meeting led by Chairman Mike McBeath and director Ken Mayer, the complete policy was deleted.  So much for deer restoration in our state.

Heritage Funds are generated from the auction of big game tags. This amounts to about $400,000 a year. This money is to be used for enhancement of game birds, game animals and game fish. One provision of this statute is that the money can be used “for the management and control of predatory wildlife in this state”.  The Wildlife commissioners, not NDOW, select the projects to be funded. For years, NDOW’s top request, i.e. spending the most money, was for transplanting bighorn sheep. NDOW believes it is more important to focus on the 280 people who hunt sheep than on the 51,011 hunters who used to hunt deer. The use of Heritage funds for predator control work was never considered until  Jim Gibbons appointed commissioners who recognized its importance in saving the deer herds as well as other species.

These Wildlife commissioners approved three predator control projects. One project was submitted by HUNTER’S ALERT for mule deer restoration.  Pat Laughlin of Nevada  Alliance 4 Wildlife submitted a proposal for mule deer enhancement and sage grouse recovery. Mike Stremler, a rancher and lion hunter submitted a proposal for deer enhancement by removing lions in a particular area.  The only way NDOW would approve Stremler’s proposal was if it was done as a research project.  During Stremler’s initial presentation, Director Ken Mayer stated that his biologists told him there were no lions in the Stillwater Mountain area.  Stremler took one lion and reported that there were six others.  Stremler’s total in a little over a one year period was the removal of eleven lions and there are at least three more in that area. All of this in a 12 mile radius!

In the course of one week, 139 coyotes were removed in Unit 031 on the HUNTER’S ALERT project with this money. Pat Laughlin’s project was responsible for removing 239 coyotes in less than three days in Elko County. All the coyotes removed were in wintering deer areas and many were shot off a freshly killed deer.  Director Ken Mayer fought against all of these proposals. Does this sound like someone who wants to enhance game birds and animals? These initial predator control programs with Heritage Fund money were extremely effective. However, with Governor Sandoval’s Wildlife commissioners, this money will never again be used for predator control.

When former Governor Jim Gibbons hired Ken Mayer, he instructed the new director to implement one of his major objectives, to bring back our mule deer. After doing nothing for four years about this serious problem, Gibbons fired him.  Mayer obviously had no intention of doing anything about the mule deer problem. For decades, NDOW has been a bighorn sheep oriented agency. With the reappointment of Ken Mayer and the newly appointed commissioners by Governor Sandoval, it will return to a sheep only wildlife agency. Deer enhancement will never be considered.

In summary, there are three reasons why our deer will never return.  1. Director Ken Mayer has no interest in doing anything about the mule deer. This has been proven by his first four years of doing nothing. 2. It will take some serious predator control to reduce lions and coyotes. This is not going to happen with Governor Sandoval’s Wildlife Commission appointees and Ken Mayer’s past performance on predator control. 3. NDOW has over-inflated deer numbers so badly that the deer have no chance of recovery.

If there is a peer review and the results prove that NDOW has inflated deer numbers, then heads should start to roll. Start at the top with Director Ken Mayer and go right on down to all of the biologists who have been providing the bogus information for decades. Fraud is a serious charge. When it is a multi-million dollar fraud, it deserves serious attention.  But when it goes on for decades it is shameful and inexcusable. Someone needs to be held accountable. At the February 2007 Wildlife Commission meeting, I was there to testify about another audit that NDOW had failed. Then Chairman Chris McKenzie asked me what I wanted. I answered that I wanted two things. Keep the corruption out of NDOW and bring back our deer. Five years later, NDOW has proven they can’t do either.

Cecil Fredi is president of HUNTER’S ALERT and has lived in Las Vegas for 69 years.

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