South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources biologists have been telling us that our deer numbers were dropping, and it’s starting to show.
The agency released results from its 2012 Deer Hunter Survey, which shows a 4 percent decrease in harvest by hunters. According to numbers compiled by Charles Ruth, state deer and turkey project coordinator, 116,673 bucks were taken this past year along with 101,181 does.
These numbers are estimated by surveys sent out to 25,000 licensed deer hunters. The answers are used in a computer modeling program, which re-creates a population model. This method came into use in 1997, after it was determined check stations weren’t providing accurate figures.
Although our statewide deer population exploded during the 1970s and 1980s, it has reversed and fallen steadily during the past decade, according to Ruth.
Sadly, these harvest numbers show this trend is continuing and we now have 30 percent fewer deer roaming the Palmetto State than in 2002.
Biologists attribute this decline to several factors, but the first was habitat change. Timber management stimulated population growth 30 to 40 years back, but those stands of trees are now grown to a point that they don’t allow sunlight to hit the forest floor.
Without it, low level growth doesn’t occur, meaning the natural browse that the deer rely on for food doesn’t exist.
The most recent factor to have a devastating result on our deer numbers came in the way of a non-native intruder.
Coyotes are decimating the deer herd and a joint study between DNR and researchers at the Savannah River Site has proven it.
This first three years of research found that 70 percent of fawns born do not survive and 80 percent of those lost were taken by coyotes. This second three-year phase of the study is looking at whether or not trapping, killing and other methods of coyote control have any chance of increasing the rate of fawn survival.
Thus, hunters are the final factor.
The majority of hunters support reducing the number of deer each hunter is allowed to take annually. But, for whatever reason, legislators ignore these wishes.
It’s not a surprise considering legislator also ignore the cold hard facts provided to them by their state agency.
It’s time for all outdoorsmen to band together.
DNR boat inspections
As they do each year, DNR’s Law Enforcement Division will be conducting courtesy safety inspections at various public boat landings across the state.
Officers will perform a quick and thorough inspection of vessels to ensure that they are safe, legally registered and in compliance with all safety regulations such as the proper number of approved flotation devices.
Boaters found not meeting the lawful requirements won’t be ticketed but, instead, allowed to correct any issues raised by the inspection.
Locally, the inspection will be available from noon to 2 p.m. May 27 at the Ebenezer Park landing on Lake Wylie.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover.