Tuesday, 01 July 2008 00:00

The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

Written by Hunters Alert
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A rebuttal to Dave Rice’s article which appeared in the Reno Gazette Journal, January 25, 2008

 

I read with interest your article in the Reno Gazette Journal, January 25, 2008, concerning Nevada's declining deer population.

I do not know whom the NDOW expert, Biologist Mike Cox is, but he is a long way from knowing or telling the "real story" of what went on during the big deer years in Nevada. If he thinks that the main reason for the decline of Nevada deer herds is the overall condition of habitat, he either does not know what he is talking about or he is creating "smoke and mirrors” for NDOW.

I ran the operational Predatory Animal Control program throughout the State of Nevada for the U. S Fish & Wildlife Program, during the 1970s and 80s, as the Assistant State Supervisor.  I believe I have on-the-ground and in-the-air understanding of what went on during the big deer years in Nevada.  There were three full-time Government Mountain Lion Hunters employed year-around hunting lions.  Coyote and mountain lion numbers were kept under control.  Deer tags, for Nevada hunters, were unlimited in number and were available for over-the-counter purchase at hunting-license dealers statewide.

In 1972, a big change occurred in the Animal Damage Control business throughout the west.  President Richard Nixon banned the use of toxicants in the government control program by executive order.  (He was soliciting the environmental vote that was just starting to emerge.)   With the loss of toxicants and nothing to replace it with but a few trappers, coyote numbers began to rise dramatically. Throughout the state of Nevada, deer numbers fell to 96,000 by 1976. Predation upon livestock by predators was a serious problem. In the late 70s, political pressure by the livestock industry and their representatives in Washington, D.C. brought about a dramatic increase in the Federal budget for Animal Damage Control.

The federal government began to appropriate large sums of money in order to prove that coyote numbers could be controlled by what they liked to call "non-toxic methods.”  This program increased use of aircraft, both fixed -wing and rotor-wing, to shoot coyotes from the air and additional trappers on the ground to replace the controversial use of toxicants.  (This was meant to look good to the environmentalist.)

At that time, there was a large, domestic range-sheep industry, operating throughout the state of Nevada.  Domestic sheep acted as a "buffer species" to deer for predatory animals.  Predators, largely, lived on domestic sheep, which were much easier to kill than mule deer.  The Ruby Mountains, in Elko County for example, had over 50,000 domestic sheep that summered on this mountain range in the 1970s.

In the early1980s, wild-animal longhair fur prices went sky high and private trappers were out in force. There were large numbers of coyotes and bobcats harvested by private trappers since fur prices were at an all time high.  Gas was around $1.25 a gallon. Coyote varmint callers were out in force.  All of the private trapping and shooting plus the concentrated government effort to control predator numbers began to pay off.  By the year 1988, the mule deer population responded to these concentrated predator-control efforts and mule deer numbers statewide were quoted by NDOW at 240,000.  NDOW was busy patting themselves on the back for what a masterful deer management program they had in place throughout the state of Nevada.  They credited the quota system for deer tags, which was put in place in 1976, and favorable weather conditions, relatively mild winters during that period, for the large increase in deer numbers, but never once did they mention the dramatic decrease in predator population numbers brought about by private hunters and trappers and the federal government program.

Now then we move forward in time, the range sheep industry began to disappear due to labor problems, government regulations, land use changes by public land administrators, imports, etc. Therefore, control efforts in and around range sheep herds decreased.  Cattle numbers began to decline.  Longhair fur prices fell, gas prices went up, vehicle prices went up, predator hunting declined, and soon predator population numbers began to come back.  Today the Nevada landscape is filled up with coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions with some prowling the alleys of towns and cities.  Predators have a "free-roll" statewide.

So what do you think has happened to our deer population?  It has steadily gone down-hill with the decrease in predator control efforts and will continue to do so unless there is a dramatic decrease in predatory animal population numbers. NDOW has blamed the mule deer decline on overgrazing by livestock, poor habitat, too many fires, too cold, too wet, too dry, not enough snow, too much snow, etc. They are in denial when it comes to the overall effect that predators have on our mule deer and upland game bird population numbers in the State of Nevada.

In 2007, NDOW reported, there were 114,000 mule deer in the State of Nevada. Looks to me like we are almost out of deer. I wonder, what are the coyote, bobcat, and mountain lion numbers statewide in 2008???

I would solicit your printing this in your column

Thank you,

James "Mike" Laughlin

Supervisory Wildlife Biologist (Retired)

Bachelor of Science Degree- Wildlife Biology- Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

 

Ed. Note: Of course, the Reno Gazette-Journal did not print the rebuttal.

Last modified on Sunday, 18 April 2010 10:43
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