|INTERVIEW with Michael Reynolds
Forest Wildlife Research Biologist, Division of Wildlife
What do you do to help manage Ohio's deer population?
I conduct research projects to enhance our understanding of white-tailed deer in Ohio. These include studying the reproductive rates of deer, capturing newborn fawns to monitor survival and conducting surveys to count deer in specific areas.
How do you capture newborn fawns?
Most fawns are born the last week in May or the first week in June. During its first few weeks of life a fawn remains hidden in woods or fields and is only visited by its mother for brief periods to nurse. By searching along the wooded edges of hayfields, my technicians and I capture newborn fawns and attach radiocollars to them.
What are radiocollars and how do you use them to study deer?
A radio collar is a small transmitter attached to an expandable collar allowing the animal to grow. The photograph above shows a captured fawn wearing a radiocollar with a rubber-coated antenna.
Once the collar is attached, we use a receiver to listen to the radio signal specific to that animal. We monitor its movements to learn about its home range size and habitat use. When the signal pulse changes, it indicates the animal is no longer moving and we locate it to determine if it is alive and what the cause of death might have been.
Diseases, predators such as coyotes, and vehicle collisions are just a few of the mortality factors that can occur during a fawn's first few months of life.
The photographs above show the radiocollar receiver we use (in a shoulder bag). I am lifting the tracking antenna attached to it in the other photo.
How do you count white-tailed deer?
It's not easy! We can count them from a helicopter with at least four inches of snow on the ground. (Deer are difficult to detect in the summer due to dense foliage.) We calculate the density of deer by dividing the number of deer observed by the total area surveyed. Mild winters limit our efforts, so we are considering the use of FLIR technology.
What is FLIR and how does it work?
FLIR stands for Forward-Looking Infrared. It is a camera system with an infrared sensor that detects objects that are hotter than the surrounding environment. From a helicopter, FLIR displays the heat signatures of deer on a computer monitor. Because FLIR does not require snow cover, we can increase our annual deer counts.
What is most challenging about your job?
Deer populations constantly change in response to many biological and environmental factors. It is a challenge to understand and predict how deer populations will respond to changing conditions.