6:00pm: Sportsline with Tony Caridi

DNR Plans Spotlight Deer Count


Ask any West Virginian and they’ll tell you, the best time to see deer is late in the evening.   It’s common for deer to be spotted on the edge of fields or straying right into the middle of them to graze during the late hours of a summer day.

Working on such a premise, the DNR will take the opportunity to use those hours to count deer over the course of the next month. 

"We want to try and get a better handle on deer densities throughout West Virginia," said Game Management Supervisor Gary Foster. "We’ve expanded on our methodology and we’re going to take it statewide."

The methodology is shining a spotlight into an open field and recording the numbers of deer observed.

"The calculations are based on deer groups, number of deer observed, and actually the formula taking the angle off your main transect and your distance from the road to the deer," said Foster. "The end product of those calculations we’re hoping to get is a fairly accurate idea of the deer per square mile."

The method for counting isn’t new.  Foster says it’s often used with great effectiveness in other states and has been used in a limited manner in West Virginia in recent years.  But he says despite the accuracy of spotlight observation, the DNR hasn’t done it to any great degree.

"It’s a proven technique, but it’s a major commitment in terms of manpower,” Foster said.  "It’s a major time commitment, but we thought it was important enough that we may need to drop other things.   We thought it was important because of the new operational plan, we needed to get new data."

Foster says DNR personnel will operate in teams of at least three.  They’ll ride a specifically designated route in their assigned counties, spotlighting and counting the deer they see.  The observers will also locate other critical data like sex, age, deer numbers, and of course the distance from the road to the deer and from one deer to another.

"It gives us some insight into recruitment and then gives us a better idea of the number of deer on the ground," he said.

Foster stresses this will not be a bother to landowners.

"It’s all just visual spotting.  We’re will not be entering anybody’s property.  We will not be shooting or collecting deer," Foster said. "It’s all just visual, sighting, and collecting data."

The work will last until mid-to-late September depending on how quickly weather allows for the break.  Foster says the better data will help in making management decisions, specifically antlerless hunting season dates and bag limits.   Although Foster believes the DNR knows about where things stand, he’s not ruling out anything.

"We may have a county or two surprise us," Foster said. "But for the most part we think we have a pretty good handle on population numbers."


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