The project is the first of its kind in order to better understand current negative factors, and manage deer in public lands. The project will be capturing more adult deer this fall on private lands, and then in December of 09, we started capturing Mountain Lions, and monitoring their movements as well . All of this is to compare private lands , and public lands, and determine the various factors in both habitats and relationships, that affect deer negatively, and positively. This information is necessary to alter fish and game regulations, concerning Deer management.
The Mendocino Black-tailed Deer project is a collaborative effort between the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and the University of California, Davis to investigate the factors limiting the black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) population in the Mendocino National Forest and surrounding private lands. The study is intended to provide information that is necessary for the management of black-tailed deer in the area.
Additional financial support for the study has been provided by the California Deer Association (CDA) and the Mendocino County Blacktail Association (MCBA).
The first phase of the study was initiated in June of 2009. Adult female deer were captured during June and August in variouslocations in the Mendocino National Forest and fitted with GPS collars. The locations from these collars will be used to identify wintering and fawning habitat, and to determine habitat selection and use. In late June and early July fawns were captured in high elevation summer range areas. Each fawn was weighed, measured, and fitted with a small radio ear tag. All fawns and adult female deer were monitored daily from June through September, and all mortalities were investigated and analyzed. Mortality analysis included using predation analysis protocols and collecting DNA samples to determine predator species.
During the winter adults and surviving fawns are monitored weekly. The cougar component of the study will also be initiated this winter, and a sample of cougars will be captured and fit with satellite GPS collars to determine cougar predation rates and diet.
This year the second phase of the study will begin. The second phase will include capturing and collaring adult females in lower elevation areas, capturing and monitoring fawns in both low and high elevation areas, assessing deer habitat quality, and conducting deer and predator relative abundance surveys.
Only 2 collared adult deer have died during the study so far. At this point in the study, adult females survival rates are typical of stable deer populations.
The cause of death is awaiting analysis of DNA evidence and bone marrow analysis. Bone marrow analysis and DNA evidence results will determine whether death was due to starvation, disease, or predation.
Fawn mortality rates for the first season were within the normal range expected for deer populations. Twenty percent (20%) of fawns survived the summer months, and predation was a significant cause of death, although nutrition may have been a contributing factor. Researchers tentatively identified predator identity at the kill site, but these results are preliminary and awaiting confirmation by analysis of DNA samples. Researchers also collected marrow to analyze fawn body condition.
Rigorous handling protocols were followed to minimize all possible capture effects on fawns. Handling time was 5 minutes or less for each captured fawn, and precautions were taken to control human scent. Fawn mortalities were also analyzed to detect any effect of capture, such as abandonment by the mother or increased predation. If capture and handling had some effect more mortality should occur in the 2-3 days following capture than any other time. Fawn mortality was scattered with no apparent pattern, showing that capture did not have an effect (see Figure1)
As the project continues we will send further updates on a quarterly basis.
After talking with District Ranger Lee Johnson and Upper Lake District Coordinator Terry Nickerson, our Black Butte River Drainage Project is tentatively being slated for the fall of 2011 (final decision expected in august). This project is designed to treat with fire the old decadent chaparral and browse species; and reduce the noxious weeds in the winter grasslands, so that the deer will have new forage. We will be burning in a yearly rotational pattern from the Clifton Ridge area, north towards Indian Dick area.
There are thousands of acres that need treatment, and MCBA targeted these areas as a much needed project. MCBA is planning on contributing upwards of $ 10,000.00 plus in 2011 -- and more in subsequent years to come -- to this project. The USFS also is contributing funding to help with habitat enhancement. USFS Ranger Lee Johnson has been a very supportive component to getting our project off the ground, Terry Nickerson has also been very instrumental in drafting the projects nuts and bolts. Thanks,gentlemen; and thanks to MCBA members.