Pact aimed at protecting blacktail doe far-reaching

A Makah study showing a trend of declining blacktail deer numbers prompted action to protect does by most of the treaty tribes on the North Olympic Peninsula, as well as the state Fish and Wildlife Department.

The agreement reached about a month ago among the tribes and the state was more far-reaching than originally reported in the Peninsula Daily News on Friday.

It involved at least the Makah, Quileute, Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam and Port Gamble tribes, as well as the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said biologists with both the Makah and the state agency.

“The tribes and the state made regulations for all of their hunters for most of Clallam and Jefferson counties,” said Debbie Ross-Preston, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s coastal information officer.

Makah ban

Rob McCoy, Makah wildlife division manager, said the Makah had banned hunting of blacktail deer without antlers for four years, but that others had continued harvests.

“This year, based on this study, they all agreed to cut back or halt antlerless harvest,” McCoy said.

He said it was the first year that all the tribes on the North Olympic Peninsula “agreed to do the same thing.”

As part of the agreement, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which closed antlerless blacktail deer permits more than 10 years ago in the western Olympics, now also has restricted archery hunts there, said Greg Schirato, regional program manager for Region 6 of the state agency, on Friday.

As of this year, only bucks — deer with antlers — are permitted to be taken with bow and arrow in the western Olympic region, Schirato said.

The details of the agreement among the tribes and the state are hard to summarize because each individual game management unit in Clallam and Jefferson counties has its own rules for hunters, and there are many such units, McCoy and Schirato said.

Hunters must check with Fish and Wildlife to find the exact rules for specific game management areas.

The rules are different because the deer populations vary from one unit to another.

The western Olympics tend to have lots of elk and few deer, compared with the eastern Olympics, which has the opposite situation — fewer elk and more deer, Schirato said.

“There are different ecological relationships in the eastern versus the western Olympics,” Schirato said.

“The deer population is not declining in Sequim,” he said, as an example.

“There is some antlerless harvest going on, but it’s in areas that can afford that,” he added.

Four-year study

The four-year study by the Makah, which prompted the agreement, covered much of the western Olympics.

The deer population “is not crashing,” McCoy said. “They are just going to be at low density unless we do something.”

The study compiled data on the number of fawns that live for a year after birth.

“A certain number of fawns must survive to replace annual doe mortality,” McCoy said.

“Many years, we don’t have enough to replace the does.”

That means that the population each year either remains level or declines slightly, he said. Over time, the number would fall.

Death claimed nearly three-quarters of 126 radio-collared fawns tracked during the first three years of the four-year study, Ross-Preston said.

Predators, both cougars and bobcats, kill the fawns.

Many fawns also are weakened by hair loss syndrome, which is caused by exotic biting lice, she said.

Hair loss syndrome

While hair loss syndrome doesn’t kill deer outright, the fawns’ incessant licking and scratching prevents the animal from feeding well and takes its attention away from predators.

It also interferes with the deer’s ability to regulate its body temperature, particularly during the winter and spring, when pneumonia can set in.

The population decline “is tough to address because it’s a combination of predation and hair loss,” McCoy said.

Predation can’t be addressed because of laws restricting the trapping and hunting of bobcats and cougars, he said.

“The only thing that we can address immediately is antlerless harvest,” he said.

“Your does produce the young, so the best thing we can do is protect those.

“You can have hunting pressure on your bucks,” McCoy continued, “but you want to keep as many of your does alive as possible.

“That’s the best way to protect the population.”

McCoy said that all hunters in Clallam and Jefferson counties should check the regulations this season “because it may have changed.”

To check on the rules for individual game management units, see the Fish and Wildlife website at http://wdfw.wa.gov, or inquire when getting a permit.

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Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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