February 09, 2022
By Dr. Dave Samuel
Who would have thought that climate change would be part of the reason Arizona put a ban on trail cameras effective January 1, 2022?
Hunters love trail cameras, and I do, too. However, there are certain situations, not found everywhere, where trail cameras reduce “fair chase,” cause hunter conflicts, and may impact wildlife movements. With an extended, record-breaking drought, ponds in Arizona have become vitally important hubs for wildlife coming for water. With that much big game coming to limited water, it’s only natural that those water sources would also be hubs for trail cameras placed by hunters. Are there that many hunters putting cameras on water? In the Fall 2021 issue of “Fair Chase” magazine, there is a photo of one side of a water catchment in Arizona with at least 11 trail cameras posted. My guess is, there were more than 50 cameras on that water catchment.
During a public comment meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, an overflow crowd of residents attended. Forty-nine addressed the commission, with 31 against abolishing cameras and 18 in favor. The commissioners later voted 5-0 for the ban, noting increased traffic by those checking cameras before and after hunting season, but also while others hunted at the same waterhole. Conflicts arose. Livestock operators complained that the visits to check cameras affected their cattle using the water. Fish and Game noted that increased human traffic checking cameras affected wildlife attempting to water at human-constructed tanks, catchment systems, or waterholes. This has been especially true during very dry periods, which have skyrocketed in recent years. Yes, climate change affects trail camera use in some parts of the country.
Some hunting outfitters feel the ban impacts their hunters who hunt near the water. Other outfitters believe there are just too many cameras being used. As much as hunters love to use trail cameras, apparently in certain places camera use can be too much of a good thing. This isn’t happening only in Arizona, but also in other Western states such as Nevada and Utah.
At the time this was written, Utah was in the middle of the debate to ban cameras during the hunting season. Nevada has already made changes. In Nevada, you can’t use trail cameras on private land from August 1 to December 31 without the landowner’s permission. Nor can you place trail cameras on public land during that same time period. If the camera transmits images or video, then they are banned from July 1 to December 31. In addition, all cameras are banned if they’re placed in such a manner as to alter wildlife behavior.
Climate Change Affecting Woodland Caribou
Labrador is not seeing habitat loss from development like what’s happening in other parts of Canada, but climate change is causing caribou numbers to decline. A new 20-year study shows that climate change has impacted adult female survival for woodland caribou. Researchers looked at snowfall, insect harassment, and growing season length while following 257 radio-collared caribou. Warmer weather leads to a cold rain rather than snow in late fall. The icy layer from the rain is quickly buried by snow, creating a hard layer that prevents caribou from breaking through to access vegetation they normally feed on.
Wolves are also part of the problem. The George River Herd has migrated farther north, and in one population, the winter ranges of the Labrador caribou overlaps with the George River Herd. It’s believed that this draws wolves to that area where they are taking the Labrador animals. If winter temperatures continue to warm, further caribou decline is expected.
CWD Driving Evolution In Mule Deer
Finally, a bit of good news about CWD. University of Wyoming researchers found that a single genetic mutation linked to slower CWD progression has become more common over time. Deer with the “slow” mutation were less likely to test positive for CWD. Additionally, the “slow” allele (a form of the gene that arises via mutation) is more common in herds that have been exposed to CWD longer.
Over the past 20 years, the frequency of the “slow” allele has increased more in herds with a higher CWD prevalence (the number of cases present at a certain time). What this means is that when a deer with the “slow” allele gets CWD, the progression of the disease takes longer in that deer. That’s because deer with that allele take longer to accumulate detectable levels of CWD.
Apparently, does with detectable levels of CWD can pass the disease on to their fawns. Thus, if they have the “slow” gene, they may have a few more years of reproduction or non-CWD fawns than does without the gene. That means that they can produce more young without CWD. The researchers noted that, “If these deer have more opportunities to reproduce before dying of CWD, and if the ‘slow’ allele is becoming more common, then this could alter our expectations about future population declines caused by CWD.” A lot more data is needed, but it’s an interesting occurrence that may lead to less CWD mortality in a herd.
NJ Black Bear Hunt Stopped In 2021
Black bear management continues to be a political football game in New Jersey. Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Fish and Game Council are to blame. In New Jersey, by law you cannot have a bear season unless the Commissioner of the New Jersey Environmental Protection Department has approved the state’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy. That policy has expired, and a new one has yet to be approved.
Unfortunately, at press time Governor Murphy remains solidly opposed to bear hunting, and the Commissioner of the NJ Environmental Protection Department is appointed by the Governor, so he won’t sign a new management plan. This means the game agency likely won’t be able to manage bears until there’s a change in administration.
Will hunters pursue NJ bears next hunting season? We don’t know, but we do know that bear problems are shooting up — as are citizen complaints. It’s a common story in New Jersey.
If you have questions about topics covered in this column or on any wildlife-management issues or wildlife species, contact Dr. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.