We’re seeing one effect of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s successful deer trapping and collaring program, aimed at tracking the movements of whitetails in the CWD intensive harvest zone around Mt. Horeb. Hunters are now spotting radio-collared deer, and wondering if it”s alright to shoot them.
Yes and no, according to study leader Nancy Mathews, a UW-Madison wildlife ecologist.
“My message is this: avoid killing radio-collared deer if possible. It”s not illegal to shoot a collared deer, but it will help our research to understand CWD and its relationship to the deer population if hunters refrain from shooting collared deer,” Mathews says.
“The information we get back is going to be crucial in helping us understand how older bucks move during the rut, and the longer we can gather data from those bucks, the better. This is especially important in light of recent information indicating that the CWD prevalence rate seems to be highest in older bucks,” she says. “If you”re in an earn-a-buck situation and there is no alternative to a radio-collared doe, then take the animal. When you”ve got a collared buck in your sights, as a researcher, I”d say please don”t shoot. But as a citizen, I”d say take it if it”s a trophy for you.”
During the rut, a buck”s range may expand to 10 square miles, which could include the home ranges of six to 12 doe groups. Since each doe group contains 6 to 20 animals, a well-traveled buck could encounter hundreds of females.
Mathews will find out a lot more about amorous bucks” wanderings this fall. She currently has nine radio-collared bucks and 24 collared does roaming the intensive harvest zone. She”s hoping that some will survive the hunting season.
“It takes a lot of time and money to capture and collar deer. The information we gain from these remaining deer on the landscape is going to help us understand deer dispersal patterns and movements on the landscape, the interaction among individual deer and among social groups of deer, and whether unhunted areas can create refuges for CWD-infected deer.
“We WILL ultimately remove all collared deer when the study concludes. None of these animals will remain on the landscape long-term,” Mathews says. In addition, all collared deer are tested for CWD at time of capture. Positive deer are removed immediately, so collared deer are very unlikely to earn hunters the $200 bounty offered for infected deer. Mathews plans to trap and re-test all the collared deer this year to keep current on their CWD status.
Hunters who shoot collared deer should call the DNR at the number on the tag. Any deer shot within 30 days of trapping still carries some residual drugs from the capture procedure, and shouldn”t be eaten.
So far, Mathews” team has seen very little doe movement. All the females are staying within their home ranges, with the exception of one doe and her male fawn, who moved about 5 miles last spring. The fawn, now a yearling buck, has traveled between the old and new range several times in recent weeks.