Skidaway Audubon News: The Challenges of Wildlife Management
Managing wildlife can be a challenge for any community, but the variety of wildlife on Skidaway Island, coupled with an expansive number of residential properties and associated activity, presents even greater challenges.
To help understand better these challenges, Skidaway Audubon recently sponsored a presentation by Dylan Till, Environmental Manager for The Landings Association, as part of its speaker series. Before joining the Association, Till was an environmental consultant for various industries in the Southeast and Midwest.
He explained that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and two federal agencies are primarily responsible for many aspects of wildlife protection, conservation, and management. DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division issues the permits that authorize The Landings' Deer Management Program, while Jonathan Smith, a wildlife biologist with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (Wildlife Services Division), is contracted to manage deer, feral hogs, coyotes, vultures, and other migratory birds. He also advises property owners regarding offending raccoons and armadillos on residential properties.
Under the deer management program, a goal of about 15 deer per square mile was established, and seasonal hunts are performed. The hunts never take place during the day, and are always in isolated wooded areas. Deer are baited with corn to provide a clear line of sight, and a safe distance from any housing. In addition, does are only hunted after fawns are no longer dependent upon them for survival.
In 2020, 150 deer were removed with arrows propelled by compressed air. (This method is considered faster and more accurate, and therefore the animal’s death is quicker compared to some other methods.) Till said the venison is donated to food banks, homeless shelters and wildlife centers.
When asked about contraceptives or sterilization for deer, Till said the federal government only authorizes such programs for scientific research, not for population control. Programs in the region employing these methods are for research purposes only, not permanent solutions. He added that one of the challenges of deer control is that as soon as deer population in an area is reduced, new deer move in to fill the void that was created, attracted by the presence of well-irrigated vegetation.
As neighboring communities institute culling programs of their own, it can only help us, commented Till.
“Since the start of the (TLA) program, the overall health of the herd has improved," Till said. "This is reflected in data collected during the culling process.”
DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division also authorizes permits that allow licensed trappers to remove nuisance alligators in accordance with Georgia’s Alligator Management Plan. Under that plan, nuisance alligators under four feet are captured and removed by DNR staff or an authorized trapper, at the landowner’s expense. Nuisance alligators more than four feet in length are removed at no charge to the landowner. The authorized trapper for Chatham County, “Trapper Jack", has the rights to sell the meat and hide of those large alligators.
Regarding coyotes, Till said they are not native to Georgia, but migrated to the East Coast from the southwestern United States. The USDA traps coyotes at The Landings. However, their ability to do so is limited in residential communities, due to the presence of dogs, he explained. Consequently, traps are set mainly in the wastewater spray fields.
When it comes to snakes, armadillos, raccoons or similar critters, homeowners with problems must hire a private pest control company. TLA is only able to handle pest control problems on TLA common property. However, TLA can contact DNR regarding a nuisance alligator on a resident’s behalf, and USDA can provide technical advice to homeowners but is prohibited from trapping on private property so that it does not take away business from local pest control companies.
Till stated that wildlife is considered a public resource and that regulators work to ensure the longterm sustainability of wildlife populations. The 40 residents in attendance applauded TLA’s efforts.
This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website. Visit landings.org to read the original article. https://landings.org/news/2021/11/15/skidaway-audubon-news-challenges-wildlife-management