Friday, January 4, 2019

top predator job opening

In southwestern Wisconsin, as in some other areas of the U.S., the white tailed deer has made quite the comeback in the last few decades, and is in fact a problem for the ecological balance in many areas.

We killed all the wolves.

Deer are overeating their terrain, preventing any new trees from taking over as older trees die, and generally affecting the "normal" plant community distribution.

I'm not sure it was quite the intent, but now we need to step up and take on the job of being one of the predators with a specific role in the ongoing predator prey balance that goes on at all scales in a complex ecosystem.

The new twist here, is that because of the overcrowding, CWD ( chronic wasting disease, a form of prion infection similar to mad cow disease) had been spreading through the herds, as there is more deer to deer contact. Hunters are actually encouraged to take more than one deer in specific areas that the Department of Natural Resources has determined need thinning. We need more predators.

So this winter, I did my part and took a nice buck, which we will be eating soon. I'm not what you would call an avid hunter, or very good or dedicated at it. If the deer were not wandering around in our woods, I would not go elsewhere looking for a hunting site. In fact, I get bored sitting in a tree stand for hours in the winter cold, but had some good luck and took a good shot.

This is the deer after I field dressed it and drug it out of our woods.

I view deer hunting as one more part of land stewardship. The DNR does annual assessment of deer populations, and sets deer harvest regulations to try to keep a good balance for the ecosystem health. In my area this year, one deer hunting license permits you to harvest one buck and four does. That is a lot!


  1. Hi Steve,

    Nice shot and a good sized buck. Yup, remove the top order predators and other checks and balances and we find that us humans have to then do the job. Deer are a real problem here too, and the bucks strip the bark of some of the apple trees. I have had this suspicion that they do that so that they can harvest the sugars when the sap rises in early spring.

    Enjoy and respect.


  2. Chris: When deer shred the bark on ( usually younger trees with thinner bark) they are marking their territory and also trying to rub the velvet off their antlers. Here is a brief explanation.

    I reckon that's what those aussie deer are doing as well.

  3. Hi, Steve!

    Nice job! We have the very same problem. We are completely overrun by deer, almost nothing grows outside of our 8 foot garden fence but our boxwood shrubs and hollies, the huge trees that are already here, and the few saplings that miraculously escape them; also a few plants that the deer must really hate. Unfortunately, none of my family (nor I) are hunters. Years ago we had several neighbors who were avid deer hunters and things were different. Once they moved away there were no more predators. It is actually a pretty serious situation.

    The deer in your photo looks a bit like a kangaroo, the way he is positioned. Venison sure is good eating.