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Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Completes Annual Spotlight Survey: Deer Population Recovering
Northeast Region, August 19, 2013
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Bucks are placed in one of three age classes during the pre-hunt deer spotlight survey.  This “Class 2” buck, is likely under 3 years of age.
Bucks are placed in one of three age classes during the pre-hunt deer spotlight survey. This “Class 2” buck, is likely under 3 years of age. - Photo Credit: M. McMenamin
For the past two years, Great Swamp NWR biologists have been evaluating the use of a FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) device to improve accuracy of the pre-hunt deer spotlight surveys.  Unlike a spotlight, the device detects heat and can penetrate thick vegetation.
For the past two years, Great Swamp NWR biologists have been evaluating the use of a FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) device to improve accuracy of the pre-hunt deer spotlight surveys. Unlike a spotlight, the device detects heat and can penetrate thick vegetation. - Photo Credit: D. Fecske

The annual pre-hunt deer spotlight survey was completed in mid-August at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Information collected from the survey as well as annual harvest data are used to manage the refuge’s deer herd. Harvest strategies and bag limits are evaluated annually and adjusted when necessary with a goal of maintaining a herd of about 20 deer per mi2. Each summer since 2000, refuge staff and volunteers drive a designated route throughout the 4,100 acre management area of the refuge for four consecutive nights and spotlight for deer. The total number of does, fawns, and bucks that are sighted are tallied. Additionally, bucks are placed into one of three classes based on the size and thickness of their antlers. Not only does the survey provide the refuge with an index of population trend, but also information on adult sex ratios, and for antlered deer, age class. Results of the 2013 survey indicate that herd numbers remain low following a 2011 epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreak. EHD is caused by a biting midge that thrives in wet conditions. Herds impacted by the disease usually take a few years to recover to pre-outbreak levels. While numbers remain low, the ratio of bucks to does (1:3) observed during the 2013 spotlight survey is indicative of a recovering population.


Contact Info: Steve Henry, 973-425-1222 x-157, steven_s_henry@fws.gov



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