Deer in the wild are often tracked for research purposes. Researchers will apply special collars to track the whereabouts of the deer they study. Ordinarily, the hunting of collared deer is prohibited. But hunters in Mississippi are being given the go-ahead to hunt them in the upcoming season with special provisions.
Steve Demarais, a research professor at the Mississippi State University Deer Lab issued a statement confirming the lifted restrictions against hunting deer wearing research collars.
“The study that we needed the data for is complete and the batteries are on their way out,” Demarais said. “Some have already stopped transmission. We’re giving the green light on any collared deer. If someone sees a collared deer, shoot it and contact us or the (Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks).”
Normally, the collars utilized in Demarais’s research are programmed to automatically release and drop off in November. But he said several have failed to do this year. Demarais noted when batteries die prematurely, the collars can no longer transmit signals. Therefore, hunter assistance is needed to make all the collars accounted for.
Hunters who harvest deer with ear tags, collars or both should report them by calling MDWFP at 601-432-2400 or the MSU Deer Lab at 662-325-3133.
Finding an Alternative Way to Track and Study Deer
Most recently, bucks in the areas of South Delta and Benton County were fitted with ear tags and orange GPS collars as part of the studies being conducted by MSU and MDWFP. Both areas are being studied as chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones. The collars transmit waypoints marking movements and also store movement data.
“The reason the deer were collared was to support the development of a methodology to estimate deer population density without baited camera traps,” Demarais said.
Before the use of tags and collars, the animals were often studied by capturing images around wildlife cameras. But CWD management regulations eventually banned the use of these cameras. They were often used by attracting wildlife to baited areas. But these areas unnaturally make animals congregate and can even promote the spread of CWD.
“That’s the way we’ve done it historically, but in a CWD management zone, you can’t do that.” Demarais said.
After baited cameras became banned, a two-year study utilizing GPS collars began to track the movement of bucks. Select camera grids were also used in the process without bait. The study also collected fecal matter to use in DNA identification of individual deer. The goal is develop a system of tracking deer with only camera grids.
The ability to track population trends is useful in general for biologists and land managers. But it is of particular importance in North Mississippi where deer are impacted by CWD. Especially in the South Delta where they face CWD and deadly flooding.