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Posts Tagged ‘deer management’

Deer hunting is conducted from early September to late February in many of the county-run parks where I take photographs. Our area is over-populated with White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and hunting is one element of a comprehensive deer management program. I am personally not a hunter, but I understand the need to try to keep the population in check to limit the likelihood of collisions with cars or of deer dying from starvation during the winter months.

No areas of these parks are closed during this hunting season, which might sound dangerous, but there are strict requirements that the hunters must follow. Most notably they have to be trained and certified archers and must shoot from tree stands. Most people never see the tree stands because they are in remote areas of the parks, but those are precisely the areas that I like to visit.

During recent trips to Occoquan Regional Park, I spotted the tree stand shown in the first photo below. No archers were sitting in the stand, though in the past I have spotted occupied tree stands a couple of times. The second image shows one of several trail cameras that I have seen at this park this year. The cameras that I have spotted in the past were more primitive—they recorded to a memory card that had to be retrieved and reviewed. The markings on the camera shown indicated that it could transmit on a cell phone signal. The manufacturer’s website notes that images can be sent in real-time or transmitted in a batch at periodic intervals during the day.

How does all of this affect me? I am not deterred from visiting these locations, but I am extra alert and cautious when I know there are tree stands nearby. I also make sure that I smile whenever I spot a trail camera—I never know when someone is watching me.

tree stand

trail camera

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have seen these signs for a couple of months at my local marshland park and haven’t given them much thought. Yesterday, however, as I was wandering through a remote area of the park, I came across an above ground metal tree stand and the muscles between my shoulder blades began to involuntarily twitch a little.

My first thought was to climb up into the stand to check out the view from the higher vantage point. I resisted that impulse and began to wonder if I was risking my safety by traveling as often as I do off of the beaten path. Technically speaking, no part of the park is closed, but I must confess that I was not on an “established trail.”

This park is in a suburban area and one of the problems we face is an overpopulation of deer. Huntley Meadows Park explains the reason for the deer management program in these words:

“Over-populated deer herds eat large amounts of native vegetation, having a seriously negative effect on forest ecosystems. Native fruits, seeds, flowers and leaves essential as food sources for other wildlife are drastically reduced, or even eliminated. A park Huntley’s size should have approximately 60 White-tailed Deer-our most recent surveys indicate a herd of over 150. These over-populated herds are caused by the removal of deer’s natural predators (wolves, mountain lions, American Indians, etc.), and also the abundance of “free” food found in suburban yards. Archery hunters help replace absent predator populations and reduce deer numbers to more natural levels-this encourages a healthier forest ecosystem, with more plant and animal diversity.”
I probably will not curtail my photographic explorations, but I plan to be a little more cautious than I have been up until now—and I might even start wearing a hat or a vest that is bright orange.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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