Despite the cancellation of activities to reduce deer numbers in parts of Bedford and Blair counties, Game Commission deer research continues in the area. The public will continue to see large nets in fields and small traps in wooded areas. These nets and traps are used to capture, not kill, deer for an ongoing research project.
Since 2018, the Game Commission has been capturing, marking, releasing, and tracking deer in the Bedford and Blair counties area. To date, more than 100 deer have been captured. Many of these deer are equipped with GPS units that record detailed movements. In 2018, nearly 300,000 deer locations were recorded.
Initial findings from the first year indicate substantial movement of deer within this area. Two 12- to 18 month-old bucks dispersed about 12 miles. Both deer crossed over Evitts Mountain. One of the young bucks followed the northern edge of the mountain onto Dunning Mountain while the other crossed over to Tussey Mountain. This buck followed the bottom of Tussey Mountain before heading to State Game Lands 41. An adult doe on Dunning Mountain traveled back and forth along a 5-mile stretch of the mountain.
In addition to tracking deer movements and the potential for CWD spread, marked deer also provide information on survival rates, harvest rates, and population abundance. These marked deer will be used to intensively monitor the effects of hunter-related CWD management efforts.
The 2019 field season to capture, mark, and track deer has been underway for over a month. This research program will continue as the Game Commission maintains its commitment to learn about the effects of CWD and implements CWD management actions.
“Since 2000, the Game Commission has employed recent college graduates from across the country to capture and mark deer each winter,” said Bret Wallingford, Game Commission deer biologist. “These young wildlife professionals have been critical to the Game Commission’s success in capturing nearly 6,000 deer for our research program.”
This type of research requires trained personnel but also public cooperation.
“The Game Commission’s deer research program has received tremendous support from hunters and landowners in all areas of Pennsylvania over the last two decades,” said Christopher Rosenberry, supervisor of the Game Commission’s Deer and Elk section. “The willingness of landowners to allow our capture crews onto their lands is important to learning more about our deer populations and effects of CWD.”
With deer capture activities still underway, sightings of large nets in fields, metal framed traps, and small bait piles will continue within the CWD study area. Tampering or interfering with these traps or nets puts the safety of deer and crews at risk and is against the law.
“It is understandable that the public may have questions about seeing large nets, traps, and small bait piles in this area,” said Roy Bucher, acting Southcentral Region Director. “However, interfering with these activities and increasing risk of injury to captured deer and crew members handling the deer will not be tolerated.”
CWD is an always-fatal, incurable disease affecting deer and elk. In recent years in Bedford and Blair counties, the disease has been detected with increasing regularity