Deer Program Overview and Research Projects

Overview

 

The Louisiana deer program is administered through two statewide deer program biologists working from Baton Rouge.  The program is delivered by the Office of Wildlife and implemented through several regional offices where wildlife biologists and technicians perform year round research and management activities on public and private lands.  For hunting season purposes, the state presently is divided into 8 areas.

Seasons are set according to general breeding periods, habitats, weapons, and hunting methods.  Louisiana has a statewide limit of 3 antlered and 3 antlerless deer per year.  Antlerless deer may be taken during the entire season except in a portion of East Carroll and all of West Carroll, where there are limited and specific days for antlerless harvest.  All deer must be tagged prior to being moved from the harvest site.  All deer must be reported through the phone or internet system, a WMA worker, or one of the private lands deer programs (DMAP or LADT).  This harvest information will be used during development of  future seasons and limits. 

Research Projects

Herd Health Collections

The Department continues to improve the breeding period data base across the state by performing spring collections of pregnant females where data is lacking or outdated.  Fetal measurements give fairly precise estimates of the breeding date for that particular female.  The number of fetuses per female gives a productivity estimate for a particular site, and inferences may be made for a larger area.  Other biological data such as kidney fat, weight, and presence of liver flukes are gathered.  Blood samples are taken and analyzed for hemorrhagic disease (HD), or other blood borne pathogens.   Brain stems are collected for chronic wasting disease (CWD) monitoring.  Periodically, rumens are analyzed for browse content.  All meat is donated to parish food banks, charitable organizations or families in need.  Several parishes in Louisiana have 2 or more breeding periods, primarily due to the stocking of deer where the breeding periods differed from native deer.   In the early breeding areas, biological samples are taken from hunter harvested deer. All samples are added to individual parish breeding data bases.

Browse and Habitat Surveys

Each year biologists walk transects or perform cursory habitat surveys and appraisals to monitor habitat and environmental conditions across the state.  This work is primarily performed on state owned WMAs and private lands.  However, assistance and cooperative work efforts occur on the Kisatchie National Forest and on several National Wildlife Refuges. Deer productivity and quality are driven by landscape conditions.  Environmental variables such as soil type, temperature, rainfall (timing and amount), and mast crops are important limiting or contributing factors.  Habitat conditions are determined by environmental variables, proximity to agriculture, forestry and other management practices, and deer density.

Bottomland Hardwood Telemetry Study

A manuscript from this study was published in the 2009 Southeastern Proceedings.  It is available for download in the documents section below.

North Louisiana Telemetry Study

A second telemetry study of deer movements and survival in pine dominant habitat has been initiated in Union parish.  To date, 54 deer have been captured and marked with either a radio collar or ear tag only.  Initial home ranges estimates are smaller than expected.  This study is on Plum Creek property and is typical of many piney woods deer hunting clubs.  Results of this study including survival rates and causes of mortality, should have broad application for many Louisiana hunters on moderately productive pine and mixed pine hardwood dominant habitats.

Pass a Loutre WMA Project

Coastal marsh deer resources and habitats are important in Louisiana.  To gain information on deer movement, hunting mortality, and habitat use in a fresh marsh, biologists and technicians at Pass a Loutre have captured and marked 38 deer in a long term mark and recapture study.   Known aged deer (6 months and 1.5s) are especially targeted to provide information on the accuracy of marsh deer aging techniques.  Work on this study is being impacted by the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and demands of LDWF coastal workers.

Exclosures

1 acre exclosures have been erected at Sherburne and Buckhorn WMAs to study the long term effects of deer browsing on plant communities and forest succession.  Initial sampling of the Buckhorn exclosure was completed this year.  Herbaceous and woody plants species composition and percent cover are among the base line data currently being evaluated.

Thistlethwaite WMA Antler Restriction Experiment

In 2005/06, a mandatory antler restriction was implemented at Thistlethwaite WMA.  Since then, the % harvest of 1.5 year old bucks has declined and the % harvest of 3.5s and 4.5+ bucks has increased.  It is less clear as to what is occurring with the 2.5 year old bucks.  It is possible that some of them (lower end) are being protected by the AR as well.   Overall, slightly fewer bucks are being harvested since the AR implementation.  However, the harvest is still slightly biased toward bucks.  Lactation rates for adult does are very high, and antler development for bucks is very good for these bottomland WMA deer.

Barksdale Air Force Base Project

Researches from Stephen F. Austin University and at Barksdale have initiated a fawn mortality project on the base.  Females are being trapped and fitted with vaginal implants to allow researchers to find and radio collar fawns at parturition to determine causes of mortality and survival rates.  Eight fawns have been radio collared.  Mortalities have been: 3 killed by predators, one killed by a hunter, and 1 was abandoned.  Does had fawns very close to human activity and structures.

Bowhunter Observations

Volunteers logged 1850 hours in 26 parishes. Only sightings information through November was requested and used. The statewide averages were 0.8 deer per hour, 0.63 fawns per doe, and 2.02 does per buck.  The deer program hopes to expand this effort to provide more meaningful data, or develop other non-harvest data related population indices.

Deer Vehicle Collisions

State Farm Insurance Company annually projects the number of deer/vehicle collisions for the industry based on the number of comprehensive and collision claims.