Buck Study goin on in PA

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BUCK STUDY JOURNAL ADDED TO GAME COMMISSION WEBSITE
HARRISBURG - As a follow up to its popular fawn study journal, the
Pennsylvania Game Commission has added a new feature to its website
(www.pgc.state.pa.us) for visitors to follow the progress of the ongoing,
three-year radio- and satellite-telemetry buck study launched in December.
The joint project between the Game Commission and Penn State University is
one of the most extensive studies ever attempted in the United States on
male deer dispersal and survival, and is the only study to date that will
measure what impact antler restrictions will have on a deer population.

To view the new feature, go to the Game Commission's website
(www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Wildlife," then choose "Deer in
Pennsylvania," and select "Antlered Deer Study."

In addition to an introduction and background on the research project, the
main attraction of the new section is a journal, which will be updated by
research personnel on an irregular basis to keep the public informed about
the project's progress.

Also posted on the site are: a banner showing the current total number of
deer captured as part of the project, how many bucks were fitted with
collars, and how many bucks with collars still are living; photos of the
research personnel; links to project cooperators; a map of the study
locations; and two video clips.  One video is a 30-second clip of a deer
being captured by a rocket net fired from a helicopter.  The second clip is
a seven-minute presentation by Dr. Gary Alt, Game Commission Deer Management
Section supervisor, talking about the agency's overall deer management
program; as well as Alt and fawn study field supervisors Steve Repasky and
Wendy Vreeland speaking about the two-year fawn mortality study, which
recently was completed.

Over the next three years, the joint research project intends to monitor 100
bucks per year in each of the two study areas: one in Armstrong County and
one in Centre County.  The 600 bucks will be captured and fitted with radio
or satellite transmitters by Game Commission biologists and Penn State
graduate students.  Deer will be captured using a variety of methods,
including drop nets, walk-in traps, dart guns and helicopters.  

Specific project objectives are:

* Determine the survival of bucks from six months to 30 months of age.  How
many bucks do hunters harvest, what are other causes of mortality, and are
there regulation changes that might increase buck survival?  Combined with
the two-year fawn mortality study, this objective should shed additional
light on mortality causes for deer.

* Monitor movements of bucks from six months to 30 months of age.  How far
do bucks disperse, when do they disperse and how many disperse?  

* Monitor changes in male age structure caused by antler restrictions.  How
does age affect antler size and how does breeding behavior change?  Data
already collected from studies in other states show that bucks grow their
greatest sets of antlers between the ages of four and eight years.  Other
studies suggest that age and quality of habitat (nutrition) play significant
roles in antler development, as well as genetics.

* Evaluate hunter satisfaction with antler restrictions, which are in place
for the 2002-2003 deer seasons.

As part of the 2002-2003 seasons and bag limits package, the Pennsylvania
Board of Game Commissioners approved the following antler restrictions:

* In a 10-county area of western Pennsylvania, antler restrictions will be
four-points on one side.  Those counties are: Armstrong, Beaver, Butler,
Crawford, Erie, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland;

* In the six Special Regulations Areas counties of Allegheny, Bucks,
Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, antler restrictions remain
one antler of three or more inches in length or one antler with at least two
points;

* In all other counties, antler restrictions will be three-points on one
side; and

* Statewide, all junior license holders, disabled hunters with a permit to
use a vehicle and active duty U.S. Armed Services personnel will follow the
previous antler restrictions of one antler of three or more inches in length
or one antler with at least two points.

"Pennsylvania's deer management program is evolving," Dr. Alt said.
"Knowledge gained from this three-year study will further scientific and
public understanding of deer behavior by answering two important questions:
Will antler restrictions result in greater numbers of older bucks?  And, do
hunters perceive there are better hunting opportunities?"

Funding for the joint project is being provided by the Game Commission,
state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and grants from three
foundations being coordinated by Audubon Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania
Habitat Alliance.

Other recent joint Game Commission and Penn State studies include: the
hunter movement study, which attempts to better understand hunter movement
and pressure across the study area, their success, and attitudes toward
hunting issues in "big woods" habitats; and the fawn mortality study, which
was perhaps the most recognized of the several recent deer research
projects.  Information about this two-year study has been provided to the
public through regular journal entries on the Game Commission's website, and
involved capturing and radio-collaring 218 fawns in study areas in Centre
and Clearfield counties to determine mortality causes.

"The fawn mortality study journal, on which the new antlered buck study
website is based, drew between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors per month," said J.
Carl Graybill Jr., Game Commission Bureau of Information and Education
director.  "We hope that the antlered buck study website will prove to be
just as popular, and provide the public a front-row seat to the exciting
research being conducted to help guide the Deer Management Section's
program."

Other deer research projects conducted by the Game Commission's Deer
Management Section, with the support and assistance of the agency's Wildlife
Conservation Officers, were: the fawn conception date study, which
determines the timeframe of the deer breeding cycle, or rut, of a given
year; and the antler measurement study, which demonstrated that age and
nutrition have an enormous impact on the size of antlers.
 

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