|Concerned for wildlife, a hunter was recently overheard saying, Antelope and deer populations are in such tough shape because of the drought, so Im not going to use my doe/fawn licenses.
Although the hunters hearts in the right place, thats not the best decision for the long-term health of the herd, says Harry Harju, Wyoming Game and Fish Department assistant chief of the Wildlife Division.
Getting a good doe/fawn harvest is particularly important this year, Harju said. With the quantity and quality of winter range continuing to decline due to drought, theres less nutrition out there to get the animals through the winter in good shape. High numbers of deer in the past actually killed the shrubs these animals depended on for winter food. By harvesting your animal, you reduce the chance this will happen again and give another doe a better chance to make it through the winter and be more productive next year.
He compares the situation to a rancher who sells some of his cows when range conditions get bad. Ranchers reduce numbers of cattle when theres nothing to feed them, Harju said. If you reduce big game competition when forage is short, you increase production of big game.
Even with depressed antelope and low-elevation deer populations due to drought and poor range conditions, the G&F tries to set license quotas that consider the condition and health of the habitat. We didnt expect forage conditions to improve over the summer, Harju said. Shrubs on most winter ranges had little or no growth again this year, and there were no forbs in some places. So its important to try and reach the harvest goals that were set.
Game and Fish revenues have been substantially curtailed due to the reduction in deer and antelope licenses over the last four years, meaning the money to help improve the habitat is in short supply, he adds.
That loss in income, combined with inflation and expanded responsibilities, has prompted the G&F to seek a license fee increase in the 2003 Wyoming Legislature.
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