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Published: Friday, 11/23/2007

Deer hunters key in helping detect trends, set policy

Craig Albright, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources biologist, measures antlers in Wells Township, Michigan. Craig Albright, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources biologist, measures antlers in Wells Township, Michigan.
LISA M. REED / AP Enlarge

WELLS TOWNSHIP, Michigan - State biologists rely on hunters to help them gather information about Michigan's deer herd that can be used to detect trends and set policy.

Registering deer kills isn't mandatory in Michigan, but the Department of Natural Resources appreciates the cooperation of hunters who bring their deer to check stations.

"The age of the deer is determined by looking at the teeth," said Craig Albright, a wildlife biologist at the DNR check station in Delta County's Wells Township. "We determine the sex of the deer - a buck or a doe - and measure the width of the antler beams on bucks.

"If a person shoots a female deer - a doe - we ask if she was lactating to see if she produced fawns, which is useful until mid-November," Mr. Albright said.

For statistical purposes, DNR staff at check stations ask hunters to indicate on a map where they shot their deer, but they don't have to be overly specific in revealing hunting locales.

Data gathered at the stations are uploaded into personal digital assistants and relayed to a central database in Lansing. It's used to assess the relative health of Michigan's deer herd.

Knowing the age of the deer helps determine population density, said Mary Dettloff, a DNR spokesman. That helps the DNR set overall management goals for deer throughout the state.

The DNR also tests 20 deer heads from every county for bovine tuberculosis, an infectious disease in which bacteria attack the respiratory system. If the federal government removed Michigan's TB-free status, farmers could not sell livestock outside the state, Mr. Albright said.

Deer carcasses that indicate a number of problems can be sent to the Michigan Wildlife Disease Laboratory in East Lansing for testing.

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