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
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.

Published in HA Newsletter 30

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.

Published in HA Newsletter 33

Reprinted from the Sparks Tribune

For 15 years in a row, here in the Tribune, I have written an annual column on the status of Nevada’s deer herd and, remarkably, the numbers have barely moved, with the herd remaining at rock-bottom levels: a little more than 100,000 animals. By comparison, we reached a peak in 1988, when 250,000 deer roamed the state.

 

That’s the bad news. But hope is on the horizon – at least the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) is making major strides to, within its rather limited constraints, do something about it.

Published in HA Newsletter 33

Reprinted from The Nevada Rancher, June 2009

How free of politics is science? During a legislative hearing, the idea of not allowing laymen—in this case the nine members of the Nevada State Wildlife Commission—to have mandatory authority over a “professional biologist” was debated.

Published in HA Newsletter 34

The Outdoorsman is a newsletter published by a group of Idaho sportsmen. Like HUNTER’S ALERT, the newsletter prints the truth about how their fish and game department is and has been mismanaged for years. The Outdoorsman makes sportsmen aware of who is responsible for the mismanagement and why sportsmen are losing the battle in Idaho and other states. You will not read the information they produce in any other publication. The similarities between Idaho and Nevada are striking. Idaho has predator problems, sportsmen’s money being spent on non-game projects, and no faith in their director or Wildlife Commission. The only difference in Nevada is that some, not all, of the new Wildlife Commissioners appointed by Governor Jim Gibbons want to correct the serious problems which have been placed on Nevada hunters by inept former directors and commissioners.

Published in HA Newsletter 34
Monday, 01 June 2009 00:00

More Predator News

Steve Smith, a rancher and lion hunter in Arizona, wrote an article that originally appeared in Western Hunting Magazine and was reprinted in Deer Times-Fall, 2007 magazine. The title was Out of Balance: One Expert’s Commentary on Mountain Lions, Mule Deer and Wildlife Mismanagement.

 

The author made many valid points and HUNTER’ S ALERT would like to compare his views with those of HUNTER’S ALERT.

Published in HA Newsletter 34
Saturday, 28 February 1998 17:00

SPORTSMEN SPEAK OUT ... AND KEEP ON SPEAKING

NDOW and the wildlife commissioners would like everyone to think that there are only one or two sportsmen who do not approve of the way our game is being managed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Former Wildlife Commission chairman Mahlon Brown used to refer to HUNTER'S ALHRT as the "small but vocal group". NDOW in their publication, Nevada Wildlife Almanac, referred to a "vocal sliver" of Nevada's hunters who opposed giving our sheep to Texas. HUNTER'S ALERT gets literally hundreds of letters, calls, or comments about NDOW's mismanagement. Listed below are but a few

Published in HA Newsletter 15

At the May 4, 1996 Wildlife Commission meeting, two thousand sportsmen had written to Commissioner Cavin about their concerns regarding the mountain lion. Commissioner Cavin could not have represented the sportsmen any better. But as usual, the other Wildlife Commissioners did not listen to sportsmen's concerns. Here were Commissioner Gavin's comments. "But the 1945 post cards and 5 letters all say we've got to do something to reduce the mountain lions in the state of Nevada. And I think basically- -the big thing they're concerned with is the cost and it went everything in the reduction from bounties to trapping. The big thing is they want to drastically reduce the mountain lion population right now and they didn't much care how we did it. They also wanted to do it now. They want to see some action right now...they don't want to wait five years to get something done about it. It's kind of like the Desert Range now where the lion problem is a problem and we have known about it and we haven't done anything about it. That's then big concern...! might say that—I will say that the majority of them are unhappy as the devil about the Division and the Commission and the mountain lion situation the way it is today concerning the deer harvest. The number one problem is start doing something now. Don't wail till he five year plan to go into effect. We'd like to see some action right now." The post card sent jointly by HUNTER'S ALERT and Safari Club International Desert Chapter said: Dear Mr. Cavin: "Deer hunting is going downhill and I believe the mountain lions are the main reason. I want something done to reduce the number of mountain lions in our state. My Comments:

Below is just a sampling of some of the 1945 comments:

Published in HA Newsletter 13
Friday, 03 February 2006 05:17

Comment - Readers Respond

My personal congratulations to HUNTER’S ALERT for such a totally complete, powerful, accurate, informing issue! If only every sportsman could come by a copy of this issue! For sixty years, I myself have been doing battle with this wildlife bureaucracy to no avail. When I learned about HUNTER’S ALERT, I immediately joined to become a part of it. HUNTER’S ALERT quotes my own sentiments verbatim.


I have received the last two copies of the U.S. Observer with the revealing and expose articles pertaining to Nevada’s disappearing wildlife and reckless bird and game mismanagement that has been taking place, that you and HUNTER’S ALERT have been pursuing and bringing to the sportsmen’s and our elected officials’ attention for so many years, not only in the sportsmen’s interest, but the benefit and welfare of our past once plentiful wildlife. All of Nevada’s sportsmen have poured millions of dollars into the Fish and Game Department salaries to manage as educated wildlife management experts only to end up with a critical--admitted wildlife, mule deer and popular sage grouse shortages, insured by the obvious overpopulations of protected predators, mainly the coyotes, bobcats and lions.


I cannot believe what you and Bud Sonnentag are accomplishing for the state and its paying sportsmen. As always, keep up the good work you represent and are doing for the rest of us in Nevada.


Nevada Jim Ornellas

Published in HA Newsletter 30
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