Unfamiliarity with new area challenged hunters, authority says
Deer may want to thank January’s cold snap for helping the latest annual native hunt in the Dundas Valley once again fall well shy of its limit.
Anuja Ramgoolam, project coordinator for the Hamilton Conservation Authority, said Haudenosaunee hunters reported killing 30 deer during the six-week hunt, the smallest harvest since its inception three years ago.
Last year’s hunt killed 37 deer, while the inaugural once took 31. The limit, set out in an agreement with the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority, is 80.
Ramgoolam attributed this year’s lower number to a variety of factors, including the move to a new location across from the Dundas Valley Conservation Area for the January stage of the hunt.
Unfamiliarity with the new spot and the bitter cold saw only five deer killed over the two-week period, compared to 25 taken in the first four weeks in an Ancaster section of the valley bounded by Paddy Green, Powerline, Martin and Jerseyville roads.
“The extreme cold really did put them back,” Ramgoolam said, noting hunters lost at least the first of eight hunting days on Jan. 7 when the temperature hit a record low of -38 C with the wind chill.
“It was not just for the hunters but the deer themselves, they would try to stay together to conserve their energy where possible, so it was a stress on both ends, I would say,” she said.
“When I talk to the hunters, they say it’s a lot of skill involved and they have a lot of younger hunters trying to learn, so their skills will improve in time, but it’s definitely very difficult to get (deer) and that weather really didn’t help at all.”
Efforts to reach the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority for comment were unsuccessful.
Unlike previous years, this year’s hunt eschewed shotguns in favour of bows, including compound bows and crossbows.
Ramgoolam said both stages went smoothly, with no reported incidents or public complaints.
Neighbours in both areas received hand-delivered notices and the authority held an open house in December for the new location on conservation land to the west of Weir’s Lane between Governor’s Road and a CN rail line.
The open house highlighted the results of an aerial survey last February that suggested the DundasValley’s overpopulation of deer had declined since a previous count in 2009.
The newer survey spotted 266 deer, or about triple the number the Ministry of Natural Resources considers ecologically desirable, in an 880-hectare section of the valley.
That was down from 505 in 2009, when 1,278 hectares were surveyed and the population was deemed four times the desirable number.
The authority also monitors the impact of deer in the valley through three 16-square-metre fenced “exclosures” that help gauge the difference between plants growing inside and outside compound.
Staff observations last August found that while the diversity and number of plants were virtually the same on both sides of the fence, none on the outside reached a height of more than half a metre.
By contrast, those on the inside were a mix of heights, with some up to two metres tall.
A staff report concluded the plants inside the exclosure would continue to grow but those on the outside “will not succeed to form the emerging forest canopy.”