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Deer Crew Diaries – Entry XI

Posted: April 12, 2016

Does a deer poop in the woods? Just ask the crews.
Collecting scat sample for DNA analysis.

Collecting scat sample for DNA analysis.

The trapping crews will be ending their time with some relaxing walks in the woods. It’s a great time of year to get out even if recent weather has been reminiscent of the previous season.

[Comments in brackets are by Jeannine and Duane]

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From the Northern Crew:

Dear deer people,

pellet samplesThis week, we began the prestigious duty of collecting deer poop. The fecal samples we collect will be analyzed for DNA which can be cross-referenced with the DNA tissue samples we obtained from deer captured in traps this winter. My crew completed 20 of the 98 transects. If you've ever wondered what life as a wildlife technician entails, I currently have 160 vials of deer poop stored in a box in my apartment.

Although not the most glamorous of duties, walking pellet transects through the woods has been a welcome change of pace from sitting in the trucks for 10 hours a day checking traplines. While collecting poop may not offer the same excitement as tackling a deer, the woods provide another kind of intrigue. We encountered nonchalant porcupines going about their business, wildflowers beginning to bloom, valleys ripe with the pungent aroma of leeks, woodcocks bobbing along in search of forage, and fresh bear tracks through the snow.

Bear tracks Woodcock

Leeks

Collar drop-off transmitterWe spent the entirety of Thursday tracking down 3 collared does from last year in attempts to remotely drop-off their VIT collars [These collars are no longer paired with a VIT. They can be retrieved and refurbished for next year]. We were very close to the first 2 does we walked in on, easily within 50-75 meters prior to triggering the drop-off signal. We actually saw the second doe stand up from where she was bedded down. However, none of the collars fell off like they were supposed to even after continued attempts to send the drop-off signal [The joys of technology in the field]. So because our equipment does not seem to be working we are going to have to borrow the southern crews' drop-off equipment.

This upcoming week will be the last one with a full crew. Patrick and Tony are heading back to the Midwest for new and exciting summer jobs. What better way to spend their few remaining days in Pennsylvania than patrolling for deer poop!

-Hannah
Field Crew Leader
PGC Deer & Elk Section

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From the Southern Crew:

Hi all,

Deer pelletsWhen the weather cooperated, the crew conducted pellet searches this week. In the past two weeks (minus 3 days due to the weather), we’ve completed about half of the pellet transects. Friday, with the snow in the mountains, the crew moved clover traps to the barn. We’ve only got about one more load of “good” traps to take to the barn. The others will be taken to be welded during the down time before fawn capture begins.

There are two VIT does that were captured last deer trapping season that need their GPS collars removed. Avery and I began the search for one of them on Tuesday, but ended up walking 1.5 km up a rocky mountain to be disappointed.

Both deer are in areas that are complicated for different reasons. One deer travels between the valley and two ridges opposite of each other where signal bounce is evident. This makes it challenging to pinpoint the exact direction that we should be going to search. We are able to reach some high points on the road where we can use the telemetry narrow the location of this doe, but there are still some issues with the signal.

The other deer often inhabits a piece of private land outside of the state forest. If she’ll spend enough time on public land, she shouldn’t be as difficult to track down (I hope). I checked on her earlier this week. I spent half a day searching and felt confident that I was getting close at one point. As soon as I got the collar drop-off device out and moved down the mountain a little more to recheck the area with the telemetry equipment, the signal strength worsened. I continued in the direction of the signal, but unfortunately the signal strength never got better again. Maybe she knew something was up or maybe I caught some signal bounce? You never know. Every day, there is a new learning experience or a mystery to be solved in the field.

Scat collection

The crew will finish up their hours this coming week and be on their way to their next adventure in life. Unfortunately, there is more rain in the forecast but we have to work with what we’ve got for these last remaining days.

-April
Field Crew Leader
PGC Deer & Elk Section




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