Saturday, July 3, 2010

Camera Critters: Summer Mornings

The Pennsylvania backcountry is a wonderful place to spend a beautiful summer morning, with activity beginning as day breaks and often continuing until well after sunrise.

A Young Whitetail Buck Pauses From Feeding

A Crow Surveys The Countryside For Danger
 It is always a special thrill to see the fawns and Friday morning was especially rewarding when one of the does brought twins to the meadow.  I had seen her several times with only one fawn with her, but I strongly suspected that she had twins.  Does keep the young fawns hidden as much as possible for the first few weeks of their lives and they attempt to keep them hidden in separate spots to lessen the chances of a predator killing both in one encounter.  Most fawn mortality seems to be from natural causes, or predation by black bears, coyotes, and bobcats.

One Of The Twins
While both of the fawns were present, I only got a decent photograph of one as they were so frisky that they were darting in and out of the sunlight.  It was frustrating as one would see a beautiful composition, but the fawn would move before the camera could be positioned.  Hopefully I will be able to photograph them both together in the future.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Pennsylvania Elk Management: "Wild About Elk" Part 2

John Di Berti, PGC Elk Biologist made several more points at the "Wild About Elk " workshop.  I will cover some of them below.  They are not verbatim quotes, but rather a synopsis of what was presented, with some of my input such as in comparing the relative reproduction capabilities of elk and deer.

PGC Elk Biologist Jon Di Berti Gives PowerPoint Presentation-Photo by W.Hill
  • Cow elk usually do not give birth until they are three years of age and they usually only have one calf, in contrast to whitetail deer that may give birth at one year of age, usually give birth at two years, and frequently have twins and sometimes triplets.  In practical terms this means that elk do not have nearly the reproductive potential that deer do, and therefore it is much easier to control their numbers so that they do not damage their habitat. 
    • Dealing with elk human conflicts is an important concern in elk management. This segment was covered by Wildlife Conservation Officer Doty McDowell and will be covered in depth in a future post.
    • Maintaining a healthy herd with a good age structure is extremely important.  It seems that we are basically doing well with the elk here in Pennsylvania, with the exception that there are not enough bulls making it past the 51/2 year point.  According to Mr. Diberti, a bull will reach his maximum potential between the age of 6-9 years, but the ability to grow large racks may continue past the ninth year. 
    Young Bull Browsing: Bulls Must Be At Least 6-9 Years Old To Reach Full Potential-Photo by W.Hill
    Mature Bull Taken on Same Day-Note Extreme Difference In Antler Size-Photo by W.Hill

      • The number of tags issued does not seem to greatly influence the number of applications received. Over 50,000 applications were received for the first hunt in 2001, but numbers then declined to a low of 17,245 in 2007. They then increased slightly in 2008 and 2009 and have basically stabilized at just below 20,000 applicants.
      • The hunt has not significantly lowered elk mortality from other causes such as killing for crop damage, roadkill, or natural causes, but rather is additional mortality above and beyond these factors.
      • Habitat management practices directed toward elk is beneficial to a wide variety of other species as well.  We will cover this in further detail in a future post with photos from a field tour with Land Management Officer John Dzemyan.

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