Monday, April 9, 2012

California Deer Are Disappearing, But Where To?
The news constantly intrigues me and I am always on the hunt for articles regarding hunting, habitat, or the outdoors. I want to thank fellow SoCal hunter, Tony S., for sharing this link because it really hit home. I am going to weigh in on it and then I hope you all do the same.

The article is titled: 'California deer population declines as habitat disappears'
I recommend reading the entire article before reading my views at the end.
Between 1990 and 2000, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 75,000 acres per year were converted to low-density housing across California. A recent Bee analysis of housing data showed a similar trend over the past decade, at least until the recession began. The rate was even greater before 1990.

This land conversion eliminated food and migratory corridors vital to deer.
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The species in question are mule deer and blacktail deer. Both species are lumped together in Fish and Game's 2011 population estimate of about 445,000 deer statewide, a drop from 850,000 in 1990.
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Many hunters blame the deer decline on mountain lions, which primarily feed on deer. The claim is that a state law that banned mountain lion hunting, passed by voters in 1990, allowed the deer-hungry mountain lion population to grow unchecked.

I'll bet almost every Southern California hunter, especially bow hunters, that read the article will tell you that from our perspective it is more than just habitat that is causing the population to dwindle. I agree while it IS a major reason, there are others often overlooked or disregarded. For one, the article fails to mention poachers. We all know how that affects the deer herd. Why not mention that and offer up that if you see illegal activity call CalTIP (888 334-2258) and share the info. I know far too many hunters that give the excuse that they didn't have time to call, or they didn't have enough information. I could go on and on. Put on your big boy pants and make the call if you see something going down. It has an impact either way you look at it.

Also, I disagree with Randy Morrison regarding the mountain lion issue. While I don't completely blame the lions, I will lay a heavy bet in their direction. I have spoken with a few people regarding the lions, not just hunters, and just this Spring multiple lions have been put down in SoCal alone (legally by/through CADFG) because of them encroaching into urban areas or feeding on livestock. I am no expert, yet from what I have read and heard, the lions are killing off deer, sheep and working into livestock because they are heavily populated and need to feed. Great job on passing Prop. 117 people. <-- Note: That is extreme sarcasm for you all. The lion population is up, but there is not a balance which I feel we need. 

Another factor has been forest fires. There was another article published this morning regarding how the reforestation from the Station Fire hasn't exactly been as effective as experts hoped. 
Foresters estimate that just a quarter of the 900,000 seedlings planted across 4,300 acres are thriving. That is far below the 75% to 80% survival rate the agency wanted.  

On most slopes, instead of small trees, the ground nurtures dense shrubs and grass in the shadows of skeletal dead trees scorched by the 2009 blaze.
I think that is also a big part of it, at least for the folks in Southern California. The fires do help in building more food, in time, for the deer, but having that many tree and land get scorched puts a huge hurt on any animal population. It will take time to regrow the already weak population here, but we need a different plan.

The deer population is going down and hunter numbers are increasing. Land being developed for human use is on the rise and finding public land to hunt is tougher than ever. How long before we are all having to travel out of state to hunt deer because we just can't catch a break in SoCal? Unfortunately, I see that in our near future. More and more hunters are going elsewhere to hunt because of the strict laws, lowered population of game to hunt and places to go. 

I would love to hear you guys weigh in. Am I totally off base here or do I have a legitimate argument here? Right or wrong, I know how I feel about it all and despite the dwindling numbers, heat, snakes, ticks, poachers and price of gas... you WILL find me hunting deer in Southern California this year.


  1. Al, I am glad you wrote this. There is no one single answer.
    I agree with calling CalTIP, I am proud to say that I call and report poaching.

  2. Excellent read. It's usually the meshed results of human influence that causes these things. Encroachment, poaching, fire management - and lion loving hippies. It's a people problem one way or another

  3. Hey Al good stuff as the usual, just putting this out there but has anyone noticed an uptick in the number of deer being hit by vehicles especially in last few years, I have seen quite a few more deer piled up on the socal freeways over the last few years and in areas that I have not seen deer in the past. Just an observation, thanks LeeWa