SDGFP Continues Monitoring Deer Numbers in Northeastern South Dakota

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By Jacquie Ermer, GFP Regional Wildlife Manager

Staff from the state Game, Fish and Parks Department has been busy monitoring more than 200 white-tailed deer as part of a research project in Brown, McPherson, Edmunds, Faulk and Spink counties.

The project’s goal is recording the annual survival rates of fawn, juvenile and adult whitetails. The juveniles and adults are captured and fitted with a radio collar or ear tag transmitter in late winter, whereas fawns are captured in late May and early June.

The study is in its third year of collaring and monitoring deer in the five-county area, and GFP crews have started to look looking for fawns, as peak fawning in northeastern South Dakota is in late May and early June.

Once a fawn is spotted, staff walks in and quickly fits a radio collar on the fawn, takes a few measurements and releases it to return to its mother. The fawn collars are expandable and designed to break away after about 18 months. The goal is to collar 55 fawns in the next two weeks.

Collaring fawns helps GFP staff determine annual deer survival and estimate how many fawns actually make it through the winter. To do this, GFP staff goes out once a month to monitor the deer by listening to the “beep” that is transmitted from the collar. Each collar has a unique frequency to help track individual deer. When a deer dies, the beep gets about twice as fast, alerting staff.

Deer with a radio collar or ear-tag transmitter can be shot during hunting seasons. People who find a dead collared deer or harvest a collared deer, should call the GFP phone number on the collar.

Annual survival rates for deer monitored in 2016 were estimated at 84 percent for adult does, 56 percent for adult bucks, 78 percent for juveniles five to 18 months old, and 68 percent for fawns zero to four months old. The survival-rate data helps wildlife managers determine annual survival estimates for white-tailed deer in different habitats, which could influence the number of hunting licenses issued and affect deer management.

GFP will continue to monitor collared deer for survival and collar additional deer in the next couple of years in the five counties. In a few years, it will move collaring efforts farther east.

— By Jacquie Ermer, GFP Regional Wildlife Manager