Studies on Pennsylvania whitetail predation by three primary predators are discussed in this video. Here are the five primary takeaways from the presentation.
Christopher Rosenberry, PhD, Supervisor of the Deer and Elk Section of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, provides a detailed and thorough synopsis of two studies of whitetail predation and fawn mortality. The first study took place in 2000-2001 and the second in 2015. The results and conclusions are similar, with some takeaways listed below the video.
1. Since 1980, bear populations have more than quadrupled.
Currently, there are in the neighborhood of 18,000 to 20,000 black bears in the state. Bears are a primary predator of whitetail fawns. They account for a tremendous number of fawn mortalities, far more than most people probably realize.
2. More than half of the coyotes examined had deer in their guts.
Coyotes account for about as many fawn mortalities as black bears. Both bears and coyotes are omnivores and will eat pretty much whatever they can catch or find, including whitetail fawns.
3. Predation accounts for over half of all fawn deaths, almost three-quarters.
Around 60% of fawns that are born die. Collars placed on fawns by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and they indicate when a fawn dies. The PGC performs a necropsy, including DNA examination to determine the cause of death.
4. Coyotes and bears account for about a third each of predator-fawn mortalities.
Predators cause most mortalities within the first few weeks of life. But, as the bobcat population has risen over the years, bobcat-fawn mortalities have increased to account for about a quarter of all fawn deaths.
Since bobcats are primarily sight predators, their predation is slightly less than the bears and coyotes, but their population appears to have grown, and so too has their whitetail predation.
5. If fawn to doe ratios become less than desired, rather than increase predator harvest, which tough to do, adjusting/decreasing antlerless deer harvest is preferable.
It is difficult to increase predator harvest, and most deer hunters do not seem willing to increase the bear harvest to increase the deer herd.
Therefore, the PGC has focused on adjusting the antlerless deer harvest. Fortunately, whitetail deer populations are stable at or above management objectives.
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