Category Archives: White-tailed Deer

Movement of Deer in Texas: Yes/No?

Have an opinion on the movement of breeder deer in the state of Texas? The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is taking public comment on proposed rules that would implement the department’s comprehensive chronic wasting disease (CWD) management plan with respect to the artificial movement of deer under TPWD permits, including Triple T (trap, transfer and transplant), DMP (deer management permit), TTP (trap, transport and process) and deer breeder.

Current deer movement rules (proposed for repeal) were intended to function on a temporary basis for the 2015-16 deer season and the period immediately thereafter. As stated in previous rulemakings and numerous press releases, TPWD’s intent was to review the current rules following the hunting season and, based on additional information from ongoing epidemiological investigations, disease surveillance data collected from captive and free ranging deer herds, guidance from the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and input from stakeholder groups, present proposed changes to the TPW Commission at the May 25-26 commission meeting for possible adoption.

To ensure that the concerns and interests of all stakeholders were fully understood and considered, TPWD engaged the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution at the University of Texas School of Law to provide facilitation services for the spectrum of interested groups, including landowners and land managers, hunters, veterinarians, wildlife enthusiasts, deer breeders, TAHC and TPWD. The facilitator’s official report is available on TPWD’s web site.

In addition to the facilitated process, the proposed new deer movement rules are also a result of extensive cooperation between TPWD and TAHC to protect susceptible species of exotic and native wildlife from CWD. TAHC is the state agency authorized to manage any disease or agent of transmission for any disease that affects livestock, exotic livestock, domestic or exotic fowl, regardless of whether the disease is communicable, even if the agent of transmission is an animal species that is not subject to the jurisdiction of TAHC.

Feeding Deer in Mississippi for Supplementation

The supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer in Mississippi is an important topic right now. Recent flooding along the Mississippi River alluvial valley caused thousands of deer to relocate to drier land. Research has proven that deer displaced by high water events will return to their normal home ranges within weeks of the flood waters receding.

As these deer return, questions exist as to the flood’s impact on available food supplies. The answer will depend on habitat conditions on each property. Portions of woody plants, called browse, should not be negatively impacted. However, lack of oxygen and sunlight will have damaged cool season forbs and native grasses and planted food plots. The full nutritional impact on returning whitetail will depend on relative amounts of each forage type available on their home ranges.

The need for artificial nutritional supplementation (feeding) should be determined by a wildlife biologist. However, if a supplemental feeding program is started, biologists with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks recommend a complete ration consisting of protein pellets. This is a feed mixture in the form of a pellet that is nutritionally adequate for deer and contains crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, vitamins, minerals, and does not contain any animal byproducts.

Shelled corn, rice bran, soybeans, and cotton seed hulls alone do not meet the nutritional requirements of deer. However, mixing corn or feeding soybeans with protein pellets will improve acceptance by deer and will increase energy intake. Rapid changes in the types of food ingested by deer can cause the onset of digestion problems that result in the death of deer.

If a land owner chooses to feed, feed should be provided from an above ground covered feeder or a stationary spin cast feeder. It is illegal to pour, pile, or place feed directly on the ground. Additionally, it is imperative to use the correct feed. Many people feel that feeding hay to deer during times of stress would be beneficial.

However, this is not recommended because deer have a complex digestive system and cannot digest hay due to the lack of needed bacteria in their stomach. Consumption of hay can actually burn more energy than gained. Deer will not benefit from eating only hay.

When providing supplemental feed to deer impacted by the Missippi River use caution. Whitetail have specific food needs and can not digest the same materials as domestic livestock. Use pellet proteins that contain protein, fiber and a complete ration of nutrients.

Transfer of Breeder Deer: Texas Movement Standards

Landowners and Texas deer breeders interested in transferring deer must heed new movement standards. White-tailed deer breeders will be able to resume animal movements under a plan finalized yesterday by staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The Breeder Deer Movement Qualification Standards Plan will take effect upon the filing of Emergency Rules by TPWD and will be in place through the 2015-16 Texas hunting season. Details of the plan are available online at www.tpwd.texas.gov/cwd.

Key elements of the new deer movement plan

  • A framework giving breeders who met previous movement qualified standards an option to move and liberate deer. Movement qualification is also dependent on administrative compliance with deer breeder permit regulations and statutes.
  • Enhanced options for closely-monitored herds with a status of “fifth year” or “certified” in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program. There are no additional release site requirements for ranches that receive deer only from these herds.
  • Additional Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing in deer breeding facilities. Under the plan, the vast majority of the 1,300 permitted deer breeders in Texas can gain movement qualified status by testing two or fewer animals.
  • There will be CWD testing requirements for a proportion of deer that are harvested on some release sites.

The goal of the Movement Qualification Plan is to provide deer breeders with options prior to the September 22 deadline for movement and liberation of bucks and before the 2015-16 hunting season. This is just one of many steps Texas is taking to mitigate the spread of CWD after it was detected in deer from a Medina County deer breeding facility earlier this summer.

“We have received and tried to be responsive to the extensive feedback from the state’s many and varied deer management interests in developing this revised plan,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “In the development of this framework, both agencies are balancing the need to minimize the risk of unwittingly allowing the movement or liberation of Chronic Wasting Disease-positive deer on the Texas landscape while adopting reasonable movement qualification standards that allow qualified deer breeders to begin moving and liberating captive deer. The complexity associated with the development of this framework is immense.”

A joint agency CWD Working Group will now focus efforts on developing individual herd plans for affected deer breeders and develop a plan for strategic sampling of hunter harvested deer from free-ranging populations this fall.

“Our goal was to protect the health of free-ranging and captive breeder deer, while maintaining business continuity for the breeder industry,” said Dr. Dee Ellis, TAHC Executive Director. “We believe this plan accomplishes those goals.”

Factors such as level of connectedness to the index facility, level of testing in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program, relative percentage of the overall herd that has been tested, and variable liberation criteria are all being considered in development of the herd plans.

The TAHC and TPWD are continuing the investigation of the index facility in Medina County, where 42 deer have been euthanized and tested for CWD.

“The results from the partial testing of the animals in the Index Facility, as well as samples from the CWD-exposed herds, are important to making reasonable, prudent, and responsible decisions for the remaining captive herds, neighboring landowners, and wild deer,” said Clayton Wolf, TPWD Wildlife Division director.

Deer Management: Suburbs are Food Plots for Deer

Managing suburban deer populations is a challenge for both home owners and wildlife management professionals. So when the phone range, I knew it was going to be a tough day. The phone call came from a suburb known to have a robust white-tailed deer population and have emotionally charged debates about their “issue.” Somehow, a buck had gotten wrapped up in a tangled mass of volleyball net and 3 heavy posts. Adjacent the “court” was a lush, green food plot consisting of a yard overseeded with annual ryegrass. The net covered his eyes and his mouth, and we weren’t sure he would be able to eat or drink on his own.

This is a familiar scene in urban, suburban, and rural suburbs with overabundant deer populations. Because deer management in communities can be emotionally charged, and lead to conflict between neighbors, it’s a good idea to get assistance from professional wildlife managers. A one day workshop will be offered this May to provide that guidance, entitled “Addressing Conflict with Deer in Our Communities.” The workshop will give residents, communities and municipal leaders the tools, information, and management strategies they need to resolve conflict with deer and about deer.

Control Urban Deer Overpopulation - Whitetail Deer Management

Topics will include:

  • Why do white-tailed deer thrive in our communities?
  • Evaluating your situation and identifying measures for success. How bad is your deer problem?
  • Identifying and building support for deer management solutions
  • Real world case studies: What worked and what hasn’t?
  • Deer management tools and solutions
  • Regulatory authority versus management responsibility: Whose job is it?

When we arrived, the white-tailed buck seemed to be waiting for us, less than a hundred yards of the landowner’s “food plot.” After a few false starts, and just at the right moment, we made our move. The deer saw through the ruse (and the netting), skirted between us, and gracefully jumped over a 6 foot privacy fence and trotted casually away. All 3 of us rolled our eyes and immediately packed up our fancy equipment. If the buck could do all that, he didn’t need our help. This suburban deer was going to be fine.

It turns out, as is often the case, that the problem was never about the deer. It was about the different human opinions on how to manage the deer. We spent the next few months providing recommendations to resolve the underlying conflict within urban environments with a proactive, rather than reactive approach to managing the local deer herd. I hope that both this community and your community joins us in San Marcos on May 29th for a great workshop.

Will White-tailed Deer Suffer from Disease-Carrying Feral Cats?

Feral cats carry a parasite disease that can impact white-tailed deer. Most people do not fear feral cats, although we all know they are a tad bit sketchy in the health department, but this may have hunters thinking twice about those cats roaming around on their hunting properties. A study by researchers at Ohio State University found that feral cats may be responsible for the presence of a dangerous parasite in deer called Toxoplasma gondii.

According to the study, the number of deer infected with the parasite coincided with the number of wild cats in their area. Researchers collected samples from over 400 whitetail deer in the Cleveland, Ohio area and found that almost 60 percent of the animals showed signs of infection. Comparatively, 200 wild cats in the region were tested for the parasite and over 65 percent of the felines were afflicted with the parasite. Coincidence? I think not.

“This study documents the widespread infection of deer populations in northeastern Ohio, most likely resulting from feral cats, and highlights the need for consumers of venison to make absolutely certain that any deer meat planned for consumption is thoroughly and properly cooked,” lead author Gregory Ballash told The Billings Gazette.

Hunters are especially warned to take care in cleaning and cooking deer meat, as the parasite is transmissible to humans. Toxoplasmosis is the leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the US. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 60 million people in the United States (about 1 in 5) carry the disease. The Toxoplasma parasite can be suppressed by a strong immune system, but effects may include flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, and in more serious cases, the parasite can even cause eye and brain damage as well as memory loss.

Some animal rights activists contested the study’s findings and argue that other carriers may be responsible for the spread of the disease. Yet the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), an advocacy group for wild birds, is promoting the study as further evidence of the damage caused to wildlife by feral cats. ABC previously stated that “outdoor” cats kill millions of birds every year, as well as many other species.

The greatest number of disease-infected deer documented by the study were urban deer, who tested positive for the parasite at a rate of nearly three times higher than rural animals. This is likely because of the greater quantity of stray cats in urban neighborhoods. Overall, researchers estimate that about 44 percent of Ohio deer are infected with the parasite.

Monster Whitetail Buck Shot in Texas

Opening day was a bust. He went to his hunting spot again in Fannin County, Texas, on Sunday. Just after daylight, a lone doe came to his bait site and started feeding just 25 yards from where Sluder sat. Five minutes later, a young spike buck showed up with his nose to the ground and chased the doe into the nearby woods. “I had the thought that I should shoot that spike just because he was running the doe off, but I had a feeling the big buck was close by,” Sluder said.

Minutes later, the buck came in, obviously following the doe’s scent trail. He stopped at point-blank range, right where the doe had been feeding, raised his head and looked around for the doe. Jason Sluder was ready and shot the buck right behind the shoulder. “He turned and ran right at me and actually ran into my blind,” Sluder said. “He looked right at me when he was 5 feet away. It was crazy. He then stopped about 10 yards behind the blind, and I put another bullet in him. He fell right there.

Hunter Gets Fannin County Monster Buck

“It was a surreal hunt for a surreal deer. I still did not know what I had. I knew the buck was big, but I was thinking 170s [Boone and Crockett score], maybe 180s. Never did I think the buck would be this big.”

The antlers have been officially scored for the Texas Big Game Awards, which uses the same scoring system at the Boone and Crockett Club. It’s the most widely recognized method for scoring North American big game. Sluder’s buck has 18 scorable points and nearly 50 inches of mass measurements. Most mature Texas bucks have about 30 to 32 inches of mass measurements. Sluder thinks the deer was 61/2 years old.

The official TBGA score is 2146/8 gross, 1996/8 net. The net score subtracts differences in the symmetry of typical measurements. Nontypical points are then added to arrive at the final score. TBGA allows scoring antlers as soon as the buck is taken. B&C requires a 60-day drying period before antlers can be officially scored for its record book.

Mountain Lions and Deer Kills – Predators of Whitetail

There are many predators of the white-tailed deer, but none is as exciting or mysterious as the famed mountain lion. Mountain lions are big cats that can effectively take down any size deer, buck or doe, both sick or healthy. A mountain lion requires about 8 to 10 pounds of meat per day to survive. The lion’s diet consists of mule deer, elk, small mammals, livestock, white-tailed deer and even pets.

Generally speaking, mountain lions prefer deer. Research has found that mountain lions can kill a deer about every 9 to 14 days, but in some locations it has been found that a lion kills as many as two deer per week, especially in hot weather. This is because many other secondary predators and scavengers move into to consume what the lion has left, forcing the lion to hunt sooner than it would have consumed the kill by itself.

Mountain Lions are Predators of Deer

Source: “Once mountain lions inhabited the entire US it was believed that whitetails were a big part of their diet. Today, most mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, solely inhabit the Western US, where they prey upon the mule deer. However, in the Northern US and other isolated areas, mountain lion still stumble upon a few whitetails from time to time. Whitetail deer are also beginning to more westward and as a result, may become a larger part of the mountain lions diet in a few years.

Once it spots a deer, the mountain lion will quietly stalk it until it slowly closes the distance to within about 10 yards. Then, with a swift charge, it will pounce on the deer’s back, attempting to sink its sharp teeth into the deer’s neck. The weight and strength of the lion, along with the delivered wound, render the deer dead in a few minutes. Mountain lions usually attack from above in an effort to knock the deer on the ground.

Immediately after killing the deer, the lion will usually expose the guts and eat them. It will then drag the carcass to a safe hiding place where it will feed on it over the course of a few days. On average, a mountain lion needs to kill a deer every 4 to 6 days.

Although they are capable of killing the largest bucks with ease, mountain lions will usually target younger, weaker, and malnourished deer first. This helps the lion conserve its energy, especially during the winter, when energy is precious. A lion will only attack a large deer if it absolutely must.”

Mountain lions usually carry or drag their prey to a secluded area under cover to feed. As one would expect, drag marks are frequently found at fresh kill sites. Lions generally begin feeding on internal organs such as the liver, heart, and lungs first. They typically enter through the abdomen or thorax when first consuming a kill, but some feed on the neck, shoulder or hindquarters first. At many lion kills sites, the stomach of the deer will be removed and found buried nearby.

Mountain lions frequently try to cache their kill by covering it with soil, leaves, grass and sticks. Lions may eviscerate prey and cover the viscera separately from the rest of the carcass. Even where little debris is available, bits of soil, rock, grass or sticks may be found on the carcass. Mountain lions are efficient predators of deer and have no problem taking mature bucks. They are strong and can move their kills quite a substantial distance.