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Knowing The Numbers - Herd Density By: Lyndon Combs
In this article I want to discuss a very important issue. The importance of knowing the numbers: the density numbers, and the impact overpopulation can have on a species. As many know there is more than one reason to hunt. It isn’t just about a trophy on the wall. It is also about filling a freezer with meat, safety of the community, economics, and conservation. All of these reasons are important, and hunters are the people that do the job. To do this job better it pays for the hunter to know the numbers on herd size in various areas. The more dense the population in a particular area the more animals need to be thinned from the herd. Deer can have a home range as large as 1,000 acres, and under suitable habitat conditions 1,000 acres can support more than 50 deer. Now this is in ideal conditions; in less then ideal conditions great deal more deer can make their home in 1,000 acres. Now don’t get me wrong I like to see the numbers go up, and in fact in Kentucky where I live the growth rate hits in the 10% a year range, and that can mean the population can double in 10 years, but an area can only support a certain amount of growth in a span of time before food, water sources, and the human population become stressed. This is the reason for the laws that we must abide. When the population increases the Department of Fish and Game, for the benefit of the of the herd, as a whole will allow a change in the number of deer hunters can harvest from that area. In other words an area becomes over populated the more thinning the herd needs, and thusly more meat for the freezer. A good example of a city having to deal with overpopulation of deer is Danville, Kentucky, which has extended its archery season into the city limits for what has been termed an urban bow-hunting season. I have always believed that the best tool the Department of Fish And Game has is the hunter. Let’s look at some of the ways the deer population can be a big problem for an area. Without proper management the situation can go from well populated managed game to a plaque. When this happens the animals began to look elsewhere for their daily needs. In the search for food the animals will enter areas with crops to feed causing the farmer to loose money, and in some cases where a family relies on their garden humans become short on food. In the past the farmer would have just shot the animal and used the meat, now you have to take the animal legally. Many states recognize the need for a landowner to kill off problem animals, but many landowners don’t hunt. This forces them to either start hunting or find a hunter to help them harvest problem animals. Again hunters save the day, and fill the freezer. To this date the most effective way to control the deer population is the fall hunting season. Fences, Frightening devices such as propane cannons, and chemical repellants are costly and not as effective as hunters in the field.

 A problem that is getting a great deal of press in the past few years is the dangers these deer pose to motorists. In fact more than 1.5 million accidents involving deer occur every year nation wide, and this number is on the rise. These accidents cause over one billion dollars in damages. Accidents like this have become the number one cause of car accidents. When a vehicle hits a deer, the car, people, and the deer can be harmed. Over 10,000 people are injured every year in accidents involving deer. This causes insurance rates to rise in the area. This is not the only way hunters help economically you see no other source helps wildlife management like hunters who pay the cost of much of the bills for wildlife management by buying a license. The local community benefits from hunters buying hunting equipment; hotels fill rooms with traveling hunters, restaurants sale food. You see it is a winning venture for all involved. So that covers the money end of the subject now let’s look at other reasons to watch the numbers. 

 Illness is another big reason to worry about herd density. The over population of animals facilitates the spread of illness, due to the fact that the animals are congregating in larger groups allowing for more animals to be infected. In Kentucky right now we are having a problem with an illness known as EHD, or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease this is passed by gnats, and midges that bite the deer. This is usually fatal most deer die within 72 hours. Due to the drought and the dense numbers of animals at watering holes the illness is taking a toll on the herd in certain areas. Relief will not come until the first good frost. In times such as this it is good to know what areas are loosing numbers so you can find better populated areas to hunt. Constant Wasting Disease a progressive ailment that attacks the nervous system is another disease that is affecting elk, and deer. The numbers, and areas that the disease has been found is useful information. The disease was first recognized in the late 60’s, and extensive testing commenced in 1997. As the name reflects the animal literally withers away due to excessive salivation, excessive urination. The animal eventually dies from this disease caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. The density of the herd can greatly affect the spread of these diseases. Knowing the areas, and numbers of animals affected is useful information for anyone concerned about the species. 

 In the wild we are not the only animals that seek nourishment from the Deer, Elk, and the other species we hunt. This is a reason to watch the density numbers of other predators in the area like Coyote. The need to control the number of predators in an area is important to insure a proper balance of the eco system. Again too much of a population growth can cause problems. In this case it puts added stress on the animals, the death of the animals from predator attacks hurts the hunting. The plus side is it opens the door to hunting opportunities for hunters to hunt animals like coyote, and bobcats. This again proves the point that the hunter is the best tool for conservation that the Department of Fish and Game has at their disposal. Knowing the density number of the area helps the hunter to find the game, and then help manage the numbers by thinning the numbers, or in this case the competition. 

 I know many are saying that is a great deal of research to find these numbers, well in the day of personal computers, and the internet it is only a few hours on the web searching Fish and Game Departments for information. Each state has one, and many websites like this one has the same information to help you find areas of high density. Contact family in other areas to see if they know of high density spots, and in some cases you may even hear of areas like this in the paper as the Fish and Game tries to draw hunters to the areas by posting information in the papers. You see it pays off to know the numbers so don’t just hunt the same old areas research the numbers to better your odds of filling the freezer, and conserve the sport of hunting. The hunter is the best tool for the job of controlling the herds. Anti – Hunting groups can’t understand that the hunter is the reason the animal population stay healthy. They are the force behind true conservation.


                      Numbers concerning car accidents are from

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