21
Feb
10

Road Kill

Wisconsin has a lot of deer, though the hunters will say there aren’t any because they didn’t get to shoot one this past hunting season.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) takes into consideration the number of deer hit by cars, number of deer in a survey area and other things when trying to estimate Wisconsin’s deer population.  The DNR draws heavy criticism from hunters who believe the deer population is being mismanaged.  Hunters generally site the low deer kill this past hunting season as proof that Wisconsin’s deer population is much lower than in previous years.

I’ve been seeing lots of deer this winter.  Last winter I didn’t see any from November through March.  What changed?  The hunters aren’t going to like this one.  My skill at finding deer.  My nephew considers himself an expert hunter.  He filled his freezer this past hunting season with venison.  My parent’s neighbor, who I would consider an expert hunter because he travels all over the United States at his own expense to kill things, got a deer during the very difficult bow hunting season.  His freezer is filled with venison.

Another factor that causes me to doubt the deer population is in decline is the rise in the number of predators.  Predator populations do not increase unless they have something to eat.  Wisconsin’s wolf population is on the rise.  Wolves used to be restricted to the extreme northern part of the state, and an area in Lincoln county where the DNR had transplanted wolves back in the late sixties early seventies.  Their numbers were estimated to be fewer than a hundred back in the eighties with the Lincoln county pack actually being on the decline with fewer than a dozen wolves.  Wisconsin’s wolf population is now believed to be above six hundred, with wolves ranging below the Wisconsin River in southern Wisconsin.  I know because one was shot and killed south of the Wisconsin River last fall.

Another thing to consider in this debate about DNR mismanagement versus hunter ineptitude is, this has been a mild winter.  Wisconsin had little to no snow until after deer hunting season.  Snow makes tracking and finding deer really easy.  Without the snow, knowing where the deer hide can be very difficult.

The Bald Eagle population in Wisconsin has definitely increased.  With thousands of eagles here during summer and many staying during winter, their ability to find food in a harsh wintry place like Wisconsin gives credence to their skill as predators.  Of course the local farmers who place the occasional road kill deer in a field helps. 

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You can see the tire tracks from the tractor used to place the deer carcass in this field.  When I first saw this there were about a half a dozen eagles feeding.  By the time I got the car stopped, grabbed my camera, stepped out of the car and got into position to take the shot, all but one of the eagles remained.

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This adolescent eagle was the last to fly away.  Obviously, there are a few skills I need to work on.  This bird flew away and joined several other eagles perched in a tree across the field from this deer.

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All in all more than a dozen eagles perched in trees around the field where the deer had been placed, giving me the opportunity to take pictures.

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