Saturday, 30 March 2013 16:13

More Misinformation by NDOW Chief

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press -

By:  Dr. Gerald A. Lent

As a former chairman of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners for two years and vice chairman for one year and living in Nevada for 70 years, I read with great dismay and consternation Wildlife Director Ken Mayer’s commentary regarding himself and Nevada’s deer herds. As chairman , I was privy to know how the Department of Wildlife conducts its business and am compelled to set the record straight.

Mayer stated that his move to Nevada was a great move for him, that he was proud to call himself a Nevadan, and that he has made Reno his permanent home in which he intends to dedicate the rest of his career to manage and protect wildlife resources in this great state.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Records show the real truth is Mayer is living in a house in Sparks that he does not own. This house is the primary residence of another person! The truth is he still owns his house in Sacramento, Calif., which was deeded to him by his ex-wife, Karen.

It is quite apparent if he has not committed to buying a home in Nevada since he arrived here over five years ago, then he is not a true Nevadan as he claims and he is not committed to Nevada! This is a very unprofessional approach and behavior for a person of his level in government and further substantiates the fact he is not committed to the resources of Nevada. This is an indication that he just wants to collect his pension from Nevada and then leave the state only to return back to California where he owns his home. This should be an embarrassment to Governor Sandoval and all true Nevadans. Make no mistake about it — Mayer is not a true Nevadan as he claims and his decisions on wildlife in Nevada have proven that!

I was the one who recommended him to Gov. Jim Gibbons and for that I am deeply regretful. I did not know of his deceitfulness and misrepresentations of himself when he applied for the job. I originally supported him based on his promises he made to Nevada sportsmen and the Governor who directed him to bring back our mule deer and his proclaimed belief in the positive results a good predator program could bring for Nevada’s wildlife.

Another area in which Mayer was not truthful was in his belief in Predation Management when he presented a seven-point plan on his views to the Chairman of the Assembly Agriculture, Mining and Natural Resources Committee. His plan stated he would “Establish a mechanism that allows for direct coordination between the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners’ Wildlife Damage Management Committee and Nevada’s landowners and livestock producers. This relationship will facilitate a dialog that would allow the Predator Committee to benefit from the experience and knowledge that Nevada’s ranchers have regarding localized predator issues. This mechanism also will allow ranchers to propose predation management projects that benefit wildlife through their Commission representative on the Predator Committee.”

Mayer also stated his plan would “Ensure that the Predator Committee acknowledges the Nevada Legislature’s desire to see that the recovery of Nevada’s deer herds is a principle focus of the Predator Management Program.”

As usual, these were just words spoken by Mayer with no intention of implementation.

Director Mayer claims in his commentary to have spent $3.9 million dollars on predator control. The truth is he has not spent his money because all sportsmen by law pay a $3 predator fee when they apply for hunting tags. Sportsmen are providing this money, not Mayer because the legislature directed this.

Director Mayer also claims predation control has not produced any significant increases in deer numbers. Once again, he is being disingenuous as NDOW’s own 2010-11 Big Game Status Book indicates that one area in Nevada showed a 65 percent increase in mule deer since a predator control program was implemented in 2004 and surrounding areas with no predator control programs showed remarkable decreases in mule deer populations.

You only have to ask any rancher in Nevada if predator control works to protect their resources!

Another scientific study in Arizona called the 3-Bar Study has been used by wildlife biologists for more than 30 years for mule deer studies. This study explicitly shows that deer in an enclosure that is predator proof will produce 10 times higher fawn ratios than deer outside an enclosure. The study’s findings so far indicate that predators may have a more significant impact on deer populations than biologists previously thought.

Director Mayer and his staff biologists just refuse to acknowledge professional scientific studies in lieu of their own twisted analysis of the data available to them. In fact, his own Wildlife Damage Management Committee to gather data and establish predation projects where needed has not met in two years! This is a reflection on his commitment and dedication to this program.

Gibbons, in December 2009, sent a letter to Director Mayer directing him to end the tension between him and his staff towards the Wildlife Commission as it was counterproductive to the Governor’s goal of increasing the mule deer population in Nevada. The Governor also instructed Director Mayer to follow the requirements in Nevada law which clearly reads the Director shall carry out the policies and regulations of the Commission.

The Governor explicitly stated he expects director Mayer and his staff to implement the policies established by the Commission. Director Mayer refused to implement many of the Commission policies, especially the ones to bring back the mule deer herds in Nevada, as directed by the Governor. As a result of his disobedience to follow the Governor’s directives, Gov. Jim Gibbons fired Director Mayer. Gov. Sandoval, when he took office, rehired Mayer.

Director Mayer was not truthful when he was interviewed for the job and this pattern has continued during his tenure as director of NDOW. He has failed the sportsmen and ranchers in Nevada miserably.

I hope this clarifies many unfounded statements that Director Mayer presented in his commentary in the Elko Daily Free Press on Nov. 23, 2012.

 

Published in Syndicated Articles
Sunday, 16 December 2012 14:15

NDOW: Agency of Deception

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By:  Cecil Fredi -

In the article titled “Deer management policies in the crosshairs” which appeared in your newspaper on Nov. 3, Ken Mayer failed to tell your readers the entire story. I will tell you what he omitted.

Ken Mayer stated “It hasn’t gone away,” referring to the ongoing controversy about mule deer. Why should it go away? It’s been over two decades that NDOW has done nothing but distort the truth about deer. Let’s prove it.

The article stated the heavy winter of 2010-11 nourished abundant plants and that biologists used this to justify the increase in tags. NDOW has used heavy winters for the decline of mule deer on numerous occasions. Apparently, NDOW’s biologists can have it both ways whenever this excuse fits in.

Director Mayer says the “mule deer population is stable and increasing.” Nothing could be further from the truth. A three-year study of Nevada’s mule deer by two Ph.D.’s will be released next month. Using the data furnished by NDOW, the study states “To say the least, scientists are deeply concerned about the future prospects of sustainable mule deer populations under current trends and policies.”

Ken Mayer finally stated that predators might be a factor. However, what he failed to say was that his agency is sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly a million dollars, that is designated for predator control and he is not using it. The Wildlife Commission has not held a predator committee meeting to approve a predation management plan since Feb. 25, 2011. There was no Predation Management plan for 2011-2012, no such plan exists for 2012-2013, nor is a meeting to even discuss such a plan mentioned on any upcoming Wildlife Commission agenda. Does this sound like a director and Wildlife Commission that is truly concerned about our mule deer?

Director Mayer also stated that “Though predators may be a factor, a far more significant one is continued loss of deer habitat.”

Habitat has been the main excuse used by NDOW for about the last seven or eight years. They used the drought excuse for about 10 years. I feel very confident that the habitat excuse will outlast the drought excuse. They will continue to use habitat as their main excuse for declining deer numbers. They can use this everlasting excuse until all of their 30-year government pensions kick in. During the drought years, NDOW’s favorite excuse for declining deer numbers was, when in doubt, blame the drought. Now when NDOW needs a new excuse to grab at, make it habitat.

Director Mayer stated, “I think we have the best team in the west to figure these things out.” NDOW biologists have been using excuses for over two decades and still haven’t figured it out. It’s quite obvious whatever science they are using isn’t working and it’s time to change the scientists. NDOW has had enough time to fix the problem. Either they can’t or won’t fix it. Neither excuse is acceptable to the people who pay their salaries.

Director Mayer is weary of attacks by “self-proclaimed wildlife experts.” In order to shut these “experts” up, all that would need to be done is to bring back our deer, something that isn’t being done. It’s that simple to shut them up. But Ken Mayer doesn’t think that way. He is more concerned about the 280 people who hunt sheep than the 51,011 who hunted deer in 1988 with a 53 percent success ratio.

Ever since Ken Mayer was hired six years ago, he has proven he is an expert at one thing: the exploitation of wildlife for financial and political advantage. But what will NDOW do when the deer population fails to the point where it is no longer viable to hunt in much of Nevada? The answer is simple: Ken Mayer will go back to California where he came from and laugh every month when his pension check comes in the mail while the citizens and wildlife of Nevada continue to suffer.

Tony Wasley, NDOW’s mule deer expert, stated that today’s numbers (deer) are closer to what should be expected on average. Apparently, Mr. Wasley doesn’t want to believe the old-timers in Elko County like John Carpenter and Cliff Gardner and many others who witnessed deer migrations by the thousands.

This is how Director Mayer has solved the two most important wildlife problems in our state. Problem: Declining deer numbers. Solution: Change Tony Wasley’s title from biologist to “mule deer expert.” Problem: Declining sage grouse numbers. Solution: Appoint Shawn Espinoza, who was hired as a game warden, to be the “sage grouse specialist.”

In addition to those two appointments, he hired a person who trained in Africa as his chief of big game. That appointment also didn’t work out for our mule deer. Is it any wonder why Nevada deer hunters are in this predicament? Rest assured, without a doubt, under Ken Mayer’s leadership, it will never get any better.

In closing, Ken Mayer should not be fired. He just should never have been rehired.

———————

Cecil Fredi is president of Hunter’s Alert and has lived in Las Vegas for 70 years.

Published in Online Articles

Posted by Cecil Fredi - 

It is a two-part series by Dr. Jared Teter entitled "Mule Deer Management" that appeared in Muley Crazy Magazine. The article proves the reason for the decline in mule deer numbers. It also states who is responsible for the decline and why. HUNTER’S ALERT has been telling Nevada sportsmen for 23 years about NDOW’s mismanagement of our mule deer. This article proves we were right and pretty much confirms the myths and lies about habitat.

The entire article is attached to this post as a single PDF download (click here), or can be viewed via the links below at the Muley Crazy Magazine website:

Part 1 - Mule Deer Management:  The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Part 2 - Mule Deer Management:  The Truth Exposed

 

 

 

 

Published in Online Articles
Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:49

NDOW - It's About the Money

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press -

By Dr. Gerald Lent - 

Editor: I have been involved with Nevada wildlife issues for over forty years. I understand what is really going on with Director Mayer and NDOW and the people of Nevada need to understand this also.

This is what I think NDOW is trying to do: Director Mayer is supporting the listing (BEHIND CLOSED DOORS) of the sage grouse issue. It’s all about money! If listed, the Feds will say what can we do to make it better and will then dump lots of dollars at NDOW (that’s what the government does) for Mayer to waste on his administration, not wildlife!

His tactic has been to kill more mule deer to decline the deer herds. This holds true for the sage grouse decline so he can get more federal dollars and can blame habitat to get more funds. NDOW’s intent is to accelerate the decline of the numbers of mule deer by giving out many more tags!

It is not habitat if only ONE species declines and Mayer needs a deer decline to have another species going down to prove the habitat excuse. Mule deer become an additional support for him to blame habitat, as Mayer has been doing for years.

NDOW believes they are serving the best interest of wildlife by getting sage grouse listed as this is the only way they will get money and get cattle and mining off the ranges so sheep can be planted.

Ken Mayer has rolled over to a non-government sheep organization (NGO). For years they have made huge donations to NDOW so basically they own Nevada Department of Wildlife. Director Mayer is saying they don’t want sage grouse listed only to get mining and agriculture off his back.

NDOW doesn’t want to believe predators are responsible for the decline of deer and sage grouse so they can say ONLY habitat is the problem!

I hope everybody really can see this because it is a pattern that Ken Mayer and NDOW have been following for years and is in Director Mayer’s best interest to get the bird listed.

Dr. Gerald Lent

Former Wildlife Commission chairman

Published in Online Articles
Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By Pat Laughlin - Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife - 

I am writing this in response to “Contentious Deer” and “Majority of Wildlife Board Resigns” articles printed in the EDFP between May 12-15.

Elko County Commissioner Charlie Myers was correct in stating that the NRS 501.297 states, “The boards shall solicit and evaluate local opinion and advise the Commission on matters relating to the management of wildlife within their respective counties.”

I was at the Elko County Wildlife Advisory Board meeting where one of the main discussions was the increase in mule deer tags. What I saw was a room full of lifetime Elko County sportsmen, ranchers, outfitters and dignitaries asking to see the science behind these proposed quota increase numbers. Elko CAB members Matt Murray and Tom Barnes voted against the increase and I commend them for “evaluating local opinion.” Lincoln, White Pine and Eureka County Wildlife Advisory boards listened to the public comments and all voted against the increase in deer tags quotas for their respective counties.

NDOW data shows Area 10 deer estimates were down 1,500 animals in 2012 from 2011 but they proposed doubling the tags for that area. NDOW stated that the increase in buck numbers limits fawn recruitment via competition for limited winter range in some areas. My question is which specific areas and where is the study of this occurrence in each specific area? There is none!

A previous Area 10 doe hunt was implemented in 2009. NDOW mule deer expert Tony Wasley stated by examining a large sample of the harvested does, it should show that these deer are habitat restricted according to body composition and age structure. Current Area 10 biologist Caleb McAdoo stated we have too many old does with no fawns out there. To this day, we are still waiting for a summary of the study of the last Area 10 doe hunt.

Based on what charts we did receive from NDOW, we know that the average age of does harvested in the Area 10 2009 doe hunt was 3.4 years old; this contradicts what NDOW believes, that we have too many old does. There were several old does in the 10- to 11-year-old range that had fawns or signs of milk or nursing. How can a doe this old, that’s living in a habitat restricted herd, have a fawn? How can they still be alive? These points have been brought up numerous times with no response from NDOW.

Let’s look at Area 6. According to NDOW, the deer herd increased 2,100 animals from 2011-2012. This is in an area that NDOW has repeatedly stated can’t support one more deer on the winter range because of the past fires. These fires have also destroyed intermediate migration corridors between summer and winter ranges. If there is no habitat, how can the deer herd increase?

So here we are year after year listening to NDOW talk about how the entire state of Nevada is habitat-restricted and can’t support any more deer. There are many mountain ranges large and small in the state that have historically had mule deer on them that haven’t been burnt by fires and livestock grazing has been reduced dramatically and you won’t find a single deer.

We agree with NDOW statements about the perfect storm situation with three wet springs followed by an open winter helping the deer herds. These wet springs help all wildlife in a desert but what they don’t mention is the past State Wildlife Commission eliminated all doe hunts and cut buck tags 25 percent across the state to help give the deer a little boost. This no doubt helped with the increase in deer. That State Wildlife Commission has now been replaced with new members appointed by Governor Sandoval that seem to care only about sheep and not deer.

Here is a little science that we do know. NDOW survey flights, according to their own model, are subject to plus or minus 20 percent. This is a 40 percent margin of error. NDOW has stated a 3 percent statewide herd increase and they are doubling the mule deer tags statewide. Where is the science to justify that increase?

At the end of the day one thing is evident, if you dig deep enough, and that is revenue. You won’t find this information on the NDOW website but, it’s a breakdown of how much money the increase of deer tags will generate for NDOW including the 3-to-1 federal matching funds.

Each resident tag generates approximately $135, excluding license fee, and $3 predator fee. Each non-resident tag produces $981.50, not including license fee, and $3 predator fee. Guided tags $1,221.50 with the same exclusions. Here are some figures for the increase in tag quotas:

Additional resident tag revenue: $1,713,825

Additional non-resident tag and guided tag revenue $1,133,055

Doe hunts: $179,280

For a total of: $3,026,160

I wonder how much of this $3 million increase will be spent on helping the mule deer or will it be used for more sheep transplants, sheep relocations and sheep guzzler projects?

The 2012 Tag Draw was conducted Wednesday, May 23, and of the 923 available doe tags in Area 10, NDOW only received 143 applications. This tells me that the sportsmen of Nevada do not want doe hunts and do not want to harvest does.

I think it is clear that the increase in tag quotas and doe hunts are all about revenue and not about what the citizens of Northern Nevada want.

———————

Pat Laughlin is president of Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife and was a member of Gov. Jim Gibbons Mule Deer Restoration Committee.

 

Published in Online Articles
Sunday, 19 August 2012 16:33

Nevada’s Deer Will Never Recover

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.

Published in Online Articles
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.

Published in Online Articles
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.

 

 

Published in Online Articles

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.

Published in 2010 Online News
Monday, 19 April 2010 06:03

Declining Deer Herds Spark Debate

Declining western deer herds have biologists, sportsman groups and environmentalists clashing over whether mountain lions and coyotes are largely to blame and should pay with their lives.

On one side are those who believe the number of deer predators should be reduced through targeted hunting programs. Others say factors such as the loss of natural habitat and wildfires are the issue.

Published in 2010 Online News
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