Georgia DNR biologists work hard every day to make the best decisions for the citizens of Georgia and the management of our wildlife resources. This often requires extensive research studies to make well informed decisions for the future.
Each month we’ll highlight a study that Georgia DNR is working on. The goal of this series is to bring you into the field with our biologists to see science in action, without all of the scientific lingo. The data we gain from doing research is important, but it’s also important to see how we gather the information.
This month, we’re focusing on deer in North Georgia.
Study: North Georgia Deer Ecology
Why are we studying this and why is it important?
Biologists saw a decline in deer harvest numbers on 8 wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the north Georgia mountains. There are several ideas as to “why” this is happening but more information is needed.
The three main things biologists want to determine are:
- Are predators significantly affecting fawn survival?
- What areas are most used by fawns and does in north Georgia?
- Is food availability influencing where fawns and does spend their time?
Answering these questions and gaining more information about how predators affect fawns in north Georgia will help biologists and land managers make informed decisions about how to manage deer in these areas in the future.
Where is the study happening?
Blue Ridge WMA in Suches, Georgia.
How long will the study take place?
The study started in 2017 and will continue until 2021.
Who’s working on answering the questions?
Georgia DNR biologists and University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources professors, students, and researchers.
How does the study happen?
After the end of deer season, adult does are captured using rocket-nets. Rocket-nets are large nets that are launched using pyrotechnics to safely secure the animal. Once a doe is caught, biologists will restrain and blindfold the animal to reduce stress. A radio-collar, used to track the animal over the course of the study, will be fitted around their neck and they’ll get an ear tag so they can be identified on cameras. The deer will then be released where they were captured.
rocket and net covered in leafs
captured doe restrained and blindfolded
doe tagged and radio-collared
But the study is about fawn predation, how can we monitor fawns if they’re not born yet?
Does will get an implant called a “Vaginal Implant Transmitter” or VIT. This in no way hurts the deer. When the doe gives birth to a fawn the transmitter comes out and researchers can track its location. Allowing the doe and fawn to bond is important, so researchers won’t start looking for the fawn until at least 3 hours after the transmitter is dropped. Once the fawn is found fawns will be restrained and data will be collected like gender and weight. They’ll then be fitted with a breakaway radio-collar, ear tags, and released back where they were caught. If the fawn is predated the collar will begin to beep letting researchers know an event has occurred.
How long until we know something?
We should start to get preliminary results in 1 to 2 years