Thursday, November 15, 2012

PA Rut Peaks-Collaring Ends at SNP?

Mature Buck Makes Lip Curl: Canon 7D 500mm f4 ISO 400 1/800 sec. f4.5
My brother Coy of Country Captures and I returned from an abortive trip to Shenandoah National Park last week, to find the whitetail rut going strong in southcentral Pennsylvania.  As regular readers are well aware, whitetail photography in the park was destroyed for the time being by a massive research program in which most of the mature bucks in the Big Meadows area of the park were fitted with huge radio collars, and many of the deer at other high tourist use areas are collared as well.  Many that are not collared, have large ear tags in each ear.

Early this week,I spoke to fellow PGC retiree and wildlife photographer, Billie Cromwell who arrived in the park the first day (Wednesday) of our trip, but decided to stay for a few days.  Sometime later in the week he spoke extensively with a ranger near the Big Meadows campground.  According to that ranger, the radio collaring program had ended two days prior.  If this is the case it is entirely possible that we saw the collaring crew on the last day that program was in effect.

What a relief to photograph a buck without a collar: Canon 7D 500mm f4 ISO 400 1/800 sec. f4.5
The buck shown above is not a lucky SNP buck that escaped collaring, he is a Pennsylvania buck that is exposed to significant hunting pressure each year.  In our area bucks seldom live to grow as large as the better bucks that SNP can produce. As a result if one wants to consistently see or photograph bucks as large or larger than this one they need to visit a place such as SNP or Cades Cove in the Smokies.

The big question at the moment is how long the study will affect the deer of SNP.  If they do not collar more deer or replace the collars on those already processed, within a few years things should return to normal as the collars are designed to fall off in time. But all to often research programs gain a momentum and keep going and going.  Of course an even worse disaster would be the actual arrival of CWD in the park.

Is this alert doe looking for bucks, predators, or a radio collaring crew?
The picture of the alert doe is primarily posted for humor, as it is not likely that she will be radio collared in the area in which she lives. But she actually faces a far worse threat with the extreme likelihood that CWD will soon be found in our part of Pennsylvania, as it has already been found to the southwest in Maryland and to the east in Adams County, Pennsylvania.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.