Deer collars are invaluable tools

The purpose of the exercise was, and is, to gather information on the health of resident deer.

As spring is upon us we can expect to see newcomers to our area in the form of young whitetail deer.

Pregnant adult females typically give birth from March through to July with a peak in fawning in May. During this time, females may display more aggressive behaviour and residents should exercise extra caution when in the vicinity of deer, particularly when walking pets.

Also, drivers should be aware that when a deer crosses the road it may quickly be followed by its fawns or other deer, so always look to where a deer has come from to see if there are others.

It is important to remember that deer are wild animals and should be regarded with the same level of caution as any other wild animal. Following from that, feeding deer foods not in their natural diet can not only adversely affect their health but can habituate them to human contact. Deer are not our pets.

In November 2014, nine does were sedated for the purposes of tagging, collecting tissue, hair and other samples, and affixing radio collars to them. The purpose of the exercise was, and is, to gather information on the health of resident deer (“resident” defined here as individual deer being born, living, and dying in the small geographic area of our community), and to track their movements and range. The collars are also helpful in tracking mortality. Overall, the information gathered is intended to assist city council and the provincial government in any plans or decisions as they relate to resident deer.

The use of collars to gather information on wildlife has been practiced for decades. Advances in technology allow for the potential of devices to be made smaller, to relay more information on more parameters, and for that information to be gathered with the least amount of direct interaction.

Collars have been and are used on an amazing variety of animals, not the least of which are lions and tigers and bears (Oh, my!): from fish to dolphins; mice to elephants; cougars to dingoes; egrets to eagles; even insects and spiders. The type of collars worn by resident deer has been used on many hundreds, if not thousands, of animals just in our province alone.

Tens of thousands have been deployed throughout North America. The wealth of information that has been collected and the broad spectrum of applications it has informed are vast. Tracking technology is expected to be used for decades to come.

A feature of the collars used locally is that they are designed to detach after a time. A fabric strip that joins the two ends of the collar is exposed to sweat, precipitation and fungi that will cause it to rot. Like an old pair of canvas sneakers, the fabric will tear and the device will drop to the ground. This eliminates the need to sedate and capture the animals a second time (subjecting them to stress and drugs unnecessarily).

When the collar is stationary for several readings it sends an alert signal whereby the biologist can collect the device that has dropped off. All said; the collars are safe, effective, and temporary and are an invaluable tool in making well-reasoned decisions.

Even though council dissolved its deer committee, the biannual deer count remains an important piece of information needed to inform decisions. Now in its ninth year, the spring count will be undertaken by volunteers in the next couple of weeks.

It takes place just before dawn and takes about an hour. Anyone interested in assisting can send an email to gfdeercommittee@gmail.com.

 

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