Wisconsin’s state wildlife animal, the white-tailed deer, always attracts observers, but now more than ever with populations changing appearance, feeding variations, and fawn development. Unexpected presences vie for attention, too.
It isn’t often that antlers are a minion magnet toward this animal, but until those growths get larger, fork more, and elevate above the ears, both adults’ ruddy hide colors get more notice.
Fawns continue to be attractive fauna, but not quite the cuddly look first observed curled in grass, alfalfa and leaf litter. Camouflage still conceals them, but the look of a gangly teenager is beginning to stand out.
Deer movement throughout the day has us eyeballing, too. Biting flies, the need to eat and drink, and accepting being gregarious again as family groups or bachelor herds all contribute to perceptions.
Each day brings more changes, while vegetation challenges us to see deer in their competing habitat.
These transformations create field, forest and roadside accidents, many not being animal’s fault. Later than usual first crop hay cutting was a life saver.
Meanwhile, hunters are pondering spring drumming counts of ruffed grouse with September being several calendar flips away. Some data are not painting a positive picture, but there is still nesting and brooding information to be measured and inserted into the formula.
In the Northern Region, which includes some of the best ruffed grouse habitat, drums decreased 38 percent, but within 43 routes, eight had increasing numbers of drums while 14 had no change. The other 21 routes, recorded decreasing numbers of drums by male birds.
“This grouse drumming survey is definitely an anomaly this year,” said Mark Witecha, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. “To complicate the picture, the 2015 survey indicated the population did not seem to bottom out, so it started increasing in 2016 with numbers well above what we had in other cycles.”
Drumming counts are a measure (males heard) of birds in the breeding populations and give biologists one measure of what is happening and indications of what’s out there and what’s possible.
Because West Nile Virus is a suspect of causing some of the low bird population last fall, the DNR is working on plans to collect data and use hunter input this summer and fall.
“We want to encourage hunter input and will make it known how to get involved,” Witecha said. “Gamebird populations can rebound from a year of poor reproduction very quickly if conditions are adequate. This is a great opportunity to work with the hunting public.”
Serviceberry (juneberry) shrubby trees are still a top choice for early summer birds and homeowners wishing to attract woodpeckers, cardinals, catbirds, grosbeaks, waxwings, robins and many more bird species looking to live for a time as a frugivorous animal until the fruits are gone.
While this shrub is underscored as having useful fruit for our purposes, the birds find it first, much before we would and strip the branches.
One 10-year-old shrub acts as a month-long feeding station, filled automatically by flowering, pollination and fruit set.
The 2018 hunting season will change dramatically for four who pursue big game. The four winners of Wisconsin elk permits for the 2018 hunt have been notified by information arriving at Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha and Merrill mail boxes. The fifth permit will be drawn from raffle ticket purchases. These hunters will be in the Clam Lake area and joined by an equal number of Native Americans. The permit process generated over $400,000 for the state in donations and permit application fees.
Summer’s heat begins to increase the excitement of looking ahead to autumn’s gathering in many ways, notably hunting, but also less intrusive and invasive activities of silent viewing and documenting.