Hunters made a dent in Island deer numbers


Martha’s Vineyard deer hunters had success in the 2013 season, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) preliminary deer harvest data for the 2013 season shows. Island hunters took 713 deer, according to the preliminary harvest report, up significantly from the 2012 tally of 610 deer. That is good news for wildlife managers and public health officials who have targeted the Island’s deer herd for reduction in an effort to reduce the incidence of tick-borne diseases.

“Deer densities on Martha’s Vineyard (zone 13) and Nantucket Island (zone 14) remain significantly above DFW’s management goals, but preliminary results from this year’s harvest show an increase in the female harvest that is critical to reduce deer densities,” deer project manager David Stainbrook said in DFW’s February newsletter.

The 2013 season brought a significant change for Massachusetts hunters. With the exception of shotgun season, hunters did not have to transport their animal to an official check station. Instead, they had the option to check in deer online. The one exception is to allow the division to collect biological data about the health of the herd.

Mr. Stainbrook said that over 70 percent of the deer taken during those seasons were reported by hunters through the MassFishHunt system.

“Not only is the online reporting system convenient for hunters, it allows DFW to provide preliminary harvest totals much earlier than in previous years,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

DFW will conduct an annual deer management review. A complete harvest summary will be posted on the DFW website shortly after the annual deer review some time this spring.

Hunters who included their email addresses in their MassFishHunt profile will receive a hunter survey by email in February. The hunting season is used as an effective tool in the effort to control the Island’s deer population. Wildlife managers say that good management decision-making relies on accurate harvest data.

Harvest up in 2013

DFW estimates there are 40 to 50 deer per square mile on the Vineyard. That figure is based on a total Island area of just under 100 square miles of which there are 47 square miles of forested habitat. The DFW estimate is based on forested habitat and a deer herd of between 2,000 and 2,500 deer, depending on time of year and food availability. Deer managers have targeted does in an effort to reduce the Island’s deer density.

Statewide, hunters took 11,413 deer compared with 11,022 in 2012.

On Martha’s Vineyard, the largest single increase by season was in the archery category. Island hunters took 248 deer during the six-week archery season in 2013, compared to the 170 deer they took in 2012. Over the two-week shotgun season they shot 365 deer compared to 356 in 2012. And they shot 100 deer during the approximately three-week primitive firearms season compared to 84 deer in 2012.