Deer population numbers moderate in South Carolina

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The downward spiral in South Carolina’s deer population might have moderated, according to the state’s chief whitetail biologist.

Video: Augusta Outdoors
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In his annual outlook on the upcoming deer season, Department of Natural Resources Deer and Turkey Program Coordinator Charles Ruth said hunters can expect good success rates in most areas.

Aiken County, near Augusta, was ranked with Orangeburg, Williamsburg and Anderson counties as the top trophy producing areas during the 2012 season, Ruth said, and the top harvest counties – with rates in excess of 14 deer per square mile – included Bamberg, Anderson, Union, Greenwood, and Abbeville.

South Carolina’s deer population expanded rapidly in the 1980s and early 1990s and peaked in the late ’90s at about 1,000,000 animals. However, since 2002 the population has trended down with current figures being about 725,000 deer, a 25-percent decline from peak figures 10 years ago.

The reduction can likely be attributable to a number of factors, including habitat change. Although timber management activities stimulated significant growth in South Carolina’s deer population beginning in the 1970’s, considerable acreage is currently in even-aged pine stands that are greater than 10 years old, a situation that does not support deer densities at the same level as younger stands in which food and cover is more available.

Also, coyotes are a recent addition to the landscape and are another piece of the puzzle. DNR is currently involved in a major study with researchers at the Savannah River Site investigating the affects coyotes are having on the survival of deer fawns.

Cumulative data throughout the study indicates approximately 70 percent total fawn mortality with coyotes being responsible for approximately 80 percent of these mortalities, Ruth said.

If these findings even moderately represent a statewide situation, this “new mortality factor” is clearly involved in the reduction in deer numbers. This is especially true when combined with extremely liberal deer harvests that have been the norm in South Carolina.

One significant change for South Carolina’s 2013 deer season is related to baiting and hunting deer over bait in the upstate.

The S.C. legislature removed the prohibition on baiting in Game Zones 1 and 2. Baiting is no longer prohibited on private lands in any part of the state. Baiting remains prohibited on Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) lands statewide.

READY, AIM, FIRED: That was the slogan used last week by Colorado voters, who successfully removed two powerful politicians from office over their support for gun control measures pushed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Obama.

Shortly after voters fired State Senate President John Morse and State Sen. Angela Giron, the National Shooting Sports Foundation weighed in with hopes that sportsmen and gun owners will continue to stand up for their rights.

“When legislators fail to represent the beliefs of their constituents, it is up to the voters to fire them,” the NSSF said.

GEORGIA DNR LEADS: The director of Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division is helping lead the organization that represents fish and wildlife agencies across North America. Dan Forster was named president of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies during the association’s annual meeting in Portland this week.

Forster, a Georgia native, has served as Wildlife Resources Division director for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources since 2004. The division is charged with conserving, enhancing and promoting wildlife resources in the state.

The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies’ governing board is made up of directors from state and provincial governments including all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canada and Mexico. The association advances science-based management and conservation of fish and wildlife in the public’s interest.


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