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Deer Count Report

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The HL Deer Count
raises questions.

1. Can HL home owners continue to feed the deer while HLRA gets management help from the state?
2. How bad is the over-population problem? W.C.

REPORT ON HLR HABITAT AND DEER POPULATION
SPONSORED BY THE B BOARD AND
WILDLIFE WORK GROUP
OCTOBER 27, 2009
Below is a summary of the meeting conducted at Holly Hall at HLR by the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), District 5 Regulatory Wildlife staff. B Board members present: John Sparks, Vice President, Larry Bowman, Treasurer, and Jeanette Sterner, Secretary.
(NOTE: Future meetings will be planned to follow this "Informational" meeting held today. If necessary, at least one more "informational" meeting will be scheduled.)
I. Larry Bowman opened the meeting by stating the reason for the meeting is so all of us can become educated on the "Man vs. Nature" situation at HLR. We all enjoy the wildlife of HLR and the surrounding area; in fact that is why many of us moved to HLR. Unfortunately, there are times when the continued development of an area begins to encroach on the habitat of the wildlife. That is one reason why the Wild Life Work Group was formed. They volunteered to study the situation and make improvements for both humans and the wildlife, especially the deer. Larry introduced Trevor Tanner, who has been a TPWD District 5 Regulatory Wildlife Biologist since 2003. He covers Wood County and 8 other NE Texas counties.
II. Trevor introduced the team who has worked on the HLR Deer Study and Report. David Sierra, TPWD District Leader for District 5. David has over 30 years of experience with TPWD. He held the Regulatory Biologist position, Trevor's current job, for Wood County. David is very familiar with the area and the issues at hand. Brett Johnson has been the Dallas Metroplex Urban Wildlife Biologist for TFWD since 2003. He has done extensive work with urban wildlife issues and regional urban planning boards. Jessica Alderson has been the Ft. Worth Metroplex Urban Wildlife Biologist for TPWD since 2008. Her Masters' thesis was on the "Human Dimensions and Urban Deer Management." Kurt Kelly and Derrick Spencer are the TPWD Game Wardens for Wood County.
III. Trevor said the first part of his presentation would be a questionnaire prepared by Jessica. Jessica explained that 50 random individuals were selected from the attendees to answer some initial questions concerning HLR habitat and the management of wildlife. Some questions will be general information concerning habitat and deer, but most will pertain to HLR. She said that after Trevor gives his report, she would ask most of these questions again. She said either this questionnaire or a similar one would be available to other HLR residents at a later date. All attendees could read the questions on the screen and keep their individual responses. They could compare their answers with those in the random sample. Her thesis was the development of such questionnaires and their implementation with communities such as ours with similar wildlife/habitat concerns. There were a variety of questions, but they centered on: a. One's views and attitude concerning the deer population of HLR; b. Is HLR overpopulated with deer and the effect on the plant life; c. The methods of reducing the population and the pros and cons of each method. (Methods ranged from controlled hunt by professionals, transporting the deer to other habitats, and processing deer meat for food banks or do nothing.); d. The problems the deer population has caused for property owners, such as vehicle damage and destruction of home gardens; e. The varying costs associated with each method of reducing the population of deer; and f. The negative impact on other wild animals and plant species.
IV. Trevor's report had three components: A. Habitat Management, the deer have to have a place to live and have adequate, proper nourishment; B. Population Management is not done by predators because most of those are not at HLR, namely hunters and coyotes; C. Human Management, we came into the natural habitat of several species of animal life and plant life. It is our responsibility to manage the habitat so plants, animals, and humans can live and be sustained adequately. (NOTE: "Human Management will be covered in Section VI.)
A. Habitat Management:
1. Deer Ecology - White tail deer are very adaptable and they will eat what YOU plant. They "urbanize" easily, you build something, they will just live within the "boundaries" of buildings, houses, swimming pools, golf courses, condos, etc.
2. Deer are highly reproductive. Twins are typical after their first breeding season. Potential for rapid population growth. Deer start breeding at 6 months of age. They can live to be "102" in deer years if there is no predator. With no predators there seems to be an elevation in reproduction.
3. Deer prefer 50% to 60% brush cover. They like plant diversity. They do need space to live to meet their need of food, water, and protection. The food breakdown is 10% grass, 60% weeds and forbs, 30% browse. Browse and brush can make up 60% of food needs.
4. Nutrition needs are NOT met by supplemental feeding. Supplemental feeding IS NOT A REPLACMENT FOR NATIVE HABITAT. Most supplemental feeding is not very high in protein. Deer gain a false sense of security by the supplemental feeding and the location where they receive the feed.
B. Population Management:
1. When deer become over-populated you have: a. More disease transfers from animal to animal and animal to man. For example, disease from deer ticks; b. Increase habitat degradation; c. Loss of plant diversity; d. Loss of animal diversity; e. Loss of cover for birds; and f. Loss of over-all ecosystem health.
2. Trevor showed a picture of how high the foliage has been eaten at HLR and the browse line was about waist high. In a picture he pointed to some small shrubs that were below the browse line. He said that does not mean the browse line is higher than the previous picture, it only means that the deer do not LIKE that shrub. He said they have their "favorites" as do humans. They will eat the "spinach" plants when there is nothing else to eat. Indicators of too many deer include: a. Decline in body weight; b. Sick or dead deer; c. Driving is dangerous; d. Loss of plants, especially a particular species of plants; e. Biological signs such as the loss of certain animal species; f. Deformed deer; and g. Balance cannot be maintained because of the loss of predators.
V. Deer Survey Results. The deer survey was done in July 2009. Three separate counts were conducted. Below is the analysis of that survey.
A. HLR has become an urban area for wildlife. Basic facts about HLR:
1. There were 17 miles of roads actually surveyed, 2485 acres and approximately 2000 lots. The TPWD excluded the lakes, golf course, homes and out buildings, swimming pools, Silverleaf condos, HLR buildings, etc from the acreage considered as good habitat for wildlife. With these exclusions, HLR has approximately 1700 acres of habitat available to deer. Approximately 25-35% of HLR property is roads, golf course, and other items mentioned above.
2. The survey crew covered 262 acres and 847 deer were counted within this area. TPWD biologists determined HLR has an estimated deer population of 1835 deer. There are approximately 200 bucks, 1275 does and 360 fawns. This breaks down to 6.24 doe per buck and .28 fawns. If over .2 then the deer population is increasing in number.
3. It is recommended that one deer should have 12-18 acres of good habitat.
4. HLR has .93 deer per acre.
B. Trevor said the reasons we have a high deer population are:
1. There is no hunting on HLR grounds.
2. Supplemental feeding is why we have more fawns then in a normal, natural habitat.
3. Skewed sex ratio, i.e. 6.24 doe per buck.
4. Lack of predators.
5. Habitat loss.
6. Open population.
C. Impact on over-population of deer:
1. Property and landscape damage.
2. Decline in herd health.
3. Disease transmission, for example, deer ticks and lime disease.
4. Human and animal (pets included) injury/mortality.
5. Vehicle damage.
D. Potential Safety Issues:
1. Does with fawns can be aggressive toward pets and humans.
2. Buck aggressive through rut.
3. Deer accustomed to people and cars.
4. Deer crossing roads at all times of day and night.
5. Increased injury to children and pets.
VI. Management of Deer Population
A. Where to Start:
1. Identify the problem. The deer survey and analysis by TPWD staff is a good start at identifying the problem.
2. Identify short term and long-term goals and develop a plan of action.
3. Define what is success; what is it HLR wants to achieve.
4. Inform the residents of the plan of action and follow through with the plan.
5. Obtain a long-term commitment so as to maintain the goals outlined.
B. Other Considerations when developing a plan:
1. Depending upon the plan agreed upon, the costs would vary with the different types of action plans. If you consider HLR has 2,000 property owners, it could cost on the average of $30 to $40 a year per household.
2. Deer over-population will continue to be an issue/problem if HLR residents do not deal with the situation.
3. Misinformation can hinder action: a. Special interest groups; b. Internet blogs; c. Popular opinion; d. Conflicting points of view; e. Public relations concerns; and f. Attraction to HLR by potential buyers because of the wildlife concerns and deer population.
C. Action Plans, Lethal and Non-lethal
1. Do nothing.
2. Install a high fence around the property to keep deer from crossing onto HLR property. Estimated cost is $12,000 to $15,000 per mile. Can appear unsightly. Maintenance costs to the fence can be expensive.
3. Eliminate feeding by humans and hope the deer will disperse naturally in search of food elsewhere. Several on the TPWD panel said that the first step is TO STOP FEEDING by humans.
4. Hunting on property by range-qualified archers. Give permits to individuals or organizations that specialize in deer harvest. Trevor said that hunting alone would not reach the goal necessary to regain the balance of deer and habitat. Some archers may charge to hunt the deer while others may not charge.
5. Hunting by range-qualified rifle shooters. This is not an option HLRA would consider on HLR property.
6. Trap and Relocate. Parks and Wildlife Department would assist HLR with obtaining a company to trap the deer. When possible TPWD would assist with the trapping of deer. HLR would have to find a place to ship the deer. For example a ranch in East Texas might be willing to take the deer. The costs on trapping can range between $150 to $400 per deer. In addition to the cost of trapping, the relocation costs vary between $150 to $250 per deer.
7. Trap and Process. Trap the deer and process the meat. Some individuals or organizations would trap the deer and keep the processed meat.
8. Combine permits for above-mentioned plans to reach the target goal in the action plan.
9. Sterilization of deer is NOT an option. There is no FDA approved contraceptive for deer.
10. The management of deer does not stop. Once herd is thinned by a combination of programs, a plan has to be in place to maintain a manageable number of deer for the habitat. The number would be recommended by TPWD. The Wildlife Work Group, with the aid of TPWD, would monitor the number of deer on HLR.
VII. Summary. Trevor and others on the panel believe the following points need to be considered by HLR residents.
A. No plan approved by HLRA and the TPWD will allow for game meat to be wasted. Local Humane Societies saw the plans TPWD biologists have suggested in the past as being as "humane" as possible.
B. TPWD feels that deer are an important part of the wildlife habitat for East Texas and HLR. The preservation of the ecosystem is a primary concern. Therefore, a long-term plan is necessary for HLR residents.
C. Maintenance must be planned and budgeted as long as deer are present.
D. Lethal control will likely always be part of the solution.
E. Recommend that the plan needs to include an initial phase require the thinning of 300 to 400 deer, mostly doe. One more survey may be taken to determine a more exact number to be removed. The initial phase, depending upon method(s) used will cost approximately $30-$40 per household, which includes property owners who do not have a home on the land. This amount is based on 2,000 dues paying members of HLRA. This initial plan would be a combined harvest, with processing the meat for food. Again, methods will make the cost vary.
F. Members of the panel confirmed that TPWD would not assist HLRA with their program unless the program includes a STOP of supplemental feeding by humans.
G. Additional information presentations will be presented to HLR property owners. Plan options will be reviewed by TPWD, the Board, with the assistance of the Wildlife Work Group. Plans and costs will be presented to HLR property owners for discussion.

Summary Submitted By: Jeanette L. Sterner A/B Board
File Record: Deer Report 10/27/09

 

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