Future Deer Seasons Threatened - Flawed CA Predator Policy Input Methodology Revealed

by Capt. William E. Simpson II


Merry Christmas And Happy New Year? Maybe not so much it appears.

People at several NGO organizations and their recent lawsuit have removed tools from the predator abatement tool-box that can be used by USDA Wildlife Services (aka: your 'trapper') and will assure the continued implosion of the remaining deer population in CA, which is down from a population of 2.4-million deer ca. 1960, to about 350,000 deer today.  A recent EnvironNews article trumpets this setback to the management of predator populations that are arguably excessive: environews.tv/110217-big-victory-fed-govs-cruel-wildlife-killing-program-stopped-court-time-norcal/

With mountain lions killing on average 50-deer each annually and now with at least 6,000 or more lions hungrily roaming California, the remaining deer will soon be so sparse that the State will most certainly assign 'protected' status to some or all of our deer species. The simple math casts a bright light, which seems to blind dim-witted management policies. Losing 300,000 deer (or more) annually to mountain lions, in a State where the starting annual population is a mere 350,000 animals, is alarming! And clearly, anyone, scientist or not, who argues that 300,000 animals annually removed from the population by whatever means is not population control is just spewing nonsense. Lions are responsible for this impact on our fragile deer population.

Factors that reduce the California deer population are as follows:
1. Predation by mountain lions; about 300,000 deer killed annually. More about mountain lions here: archive.myoutdoorbuddy.com/columnist/Captain-William-E-Simpson-Articles.php?art=10662

2. Vehicular accidents killed about 13,563 deer & elk in California in 2016 with the following tally:

    a) 7,400 black tail deer

    b) 6,119 mule deer 

    c) 44 elk

3. Hunting in 2016 accounted for about 30,000 deer killed statewide (nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=143032)

4. Poaching accounts for around 15,000 deer annually killed

5. Diseases, such as Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (AHD), which was first discovered in California in 1994, and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is killing cervids (deer-elk). How many are being killed is very difficult to assess since animals often die unseen in remote locations, but it is estimated that the numbers may be in the hundreds. 

6. Wildfires also kill deer (and other wildlife), to what extent varies with wildfire intensity and terrain. 

Will there be a meaningful deer season in 2018? 
That's the real question. The State can effectively for all intents and purposes render the deer-season closed by merely severely limiting tags.

As it was this past season here in Siskiyou County California's legendary 'C-1' unit, the season was once again a big loser for the vast majority of hunters who were lucky enough to even draw a tag in the first place. Across the area in many hunting camps, 'tag-soup' was the fare as hunters lamented about seasons-past in the formerly famous 'C-1' unit, where trophy deer were abundant just a few decades back. Now those days are just a distant memory. 

Deer which traditionally are the primary prey-animal for mountain lions are so sparse these days that lions have now fixed their sights on new sources of prey; people's pets and livestock! The evidence is indisputable as the contents of a lion's stomach don't lie. The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife 2014 Necropsy Report on a large sampling of mountain lions showed that lions had preyed primarily upon people's pets, as is seen in their report: fgc.ca.gov/public/reports/mountainlionreport012315.pdf

But as bad as all that is, there is a far more serious and financially devastating side to the depleted state of our California (and Oregon) deer herds. 

Deer (and other cervids) provide an extremely important service to the areas in and around our forests and grasslands. The 2-million deer (and some elk) that are no longer in the CA population were abating millions of tons of grass and brush that now annually fuel catastrophic wildfires. How much excess grass and brush (primary wildfire fuel) did these deer remove in the past? 

An average deer eats about 7-pounds of grass and brush daily. That's 2,555 pounds annually for each deer. When we multiply that times the estimated 2-million deer missing from the CA population, we see they had been quietly abating over 2.5-million tons of grass and brush annually, not counting what the missing elk were grazing-off. So we could say there is about 3-million tons of excessive ground fuels recurring annually, which are the kindling for the new super-hot breed of catastrophic wildfires we are now suffering today. More here: horsetalk.co.nz/2017/11/20/wild-horses-wildfire-wildlife-ecological-imbalance/

The evolution of these events under existing wildlife management policies that have been influenced by people with little or no practical experience and/or have completely missed the connection between the depletion of deer and catastrophic wildfire is now obvious. Catastrophic wildfire is not part of any normal 'healthy' fire-cycle in forests and are not natural processes. These catastrophic wildfires are however the result of inept meddling with wildlife management by poorly informed people who are operating based upon myopic compartmentalized perspectives in combination with outdated dogma who have been influencing and informing wildlife management policy. 

This must be corrected now, before a significant part of California is consumed in a fire-event larger and even more devastating than the recent Sonoma County catastrophic fire-event, where over 40 people were literally burned-alive and over 7,000 homes and structures destroyed. Read more about that $1-billion dollar fire cost here: fox6now.com/2017/10/19/7000-homes-destroyed-in-ca-wildfires-sonoma-countys-the-3rd-deadliest/

William Simpson is the author of Dark Stallions – Legend of the Centaurians, proceeds from which go towards supporting wild and domestic horse rescue and sanctuary.

Capt. William E. Simpson II is a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, having logged more than 150,000 miles at sea. Simpson has successfully survived long-term ‘off the grid’ at sea and at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family for years at a time. He holds a U.S.C.G. 500-ton captain’s license for commercial-inspected passenger vessels and he is also a commercial airplane and helicopter pilot.

Simpson spent his formative years growing up on the family’s working ranch in the mountains of Southern Oregon, where horses were an integral part of the daily life. William left the family ranch to attend college, which turned out to be a stepping stone into a bizarre lifestyle that led him around the world on an entrepreneurial quest. An adventurer at heart, Simpson and his best friend and wife Laura, spent many years at sea during two sailing expeditions (1991-1994 and 2008-2011) where they experienced some of the many wonders and mysteries of nature. Since retiring, Bill and Laura have changed lifestyles and are once again engaged in a new adventure; living an off-grid lifestyle in the remote wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains, where they enjoy coexisting with herds of wild horses, along with a myriad of other wild animals. The staggering beauty of the local mountains and valleys is awe inspiring and has influenced Bill to frequently write on subjects related to wild horses as well as wild and domestic horse advocacy, rescue and sanctuary.

The opinions expressed on MyOutdoorBuddy are those of the author and do not represent the opinion of MyOutdoorBuddy or that of the author's employer unless otherwise stated.