FWC approves new deer harvest protection

June 9, 2011

For immediate release: June 8, 2011
Contact: Tony Young, 850-488-7867

FWC approves new deer harvest protection in parts of Big Cypress National Preserve

In an effort to allow the deer population to rebound if conditions improve, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved an executive order implementing new deer harvest rules in two areas of the Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area in South Florida. The rules will affect the upcoming 2011-2012 hunting season.

The new rules will affect zones 3 and 4 of the Stairsteps Unit (south and west of Loop Road). No deer may be harvested from Zone 4. Deer hunting will be allowed in Zone 3, but with a reduced bag limit from two to one deer per season, and all deer harvested from Zone 3 must have a forked antler. The order will not affect zones 1 and 2, where deer hunting will be allowed to continue under current regulations.

Data collected from annual surveys, when FWC and National Park Service (NPS) biologists fly over the area to count deer, reflect a dramatic decline in the deer population this past decade.

An average of three deer were counted in surveys conducted in Zone 4 this year, the southernmost and wettest zone. Last year, an average of seven deer were observed. The previous year, 18 deer were observed there. Surveys were not conducted in 2008 due to lack of funds. In 2007, 123 deer were counted. The highest count since the surveys began in 1995 was in 2002, with 523 deer.

A joint task force of FWC and NPS scientists found the number and duration of high-water events in the Stairsteps Unit have increased significantly since 1995. Biologists believe that survival of fawns and, to a lesser extent, adult females, has been decreased by high-water events, habitat changes and predation. If the trends in these conditions reverse, deer populations would likely rebound.

Access to all areas will remain open, subject to NPS regulations, and all other hunting will be allowed.

The FWC and NPS will continue to monitor the deer population in the Stairsteps Unit. Hunters are encouraged to bring in whole deer harvested from the area to the check station so they may be examined. Hunters may call the FWC’s Naples Field office at 239-417-6352 for directions and information on check stations.

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