Natural Mortality, What is it?
Death by Mother Nature–by “natural causes”– accidental death, death caused by something other than your weapon, that is what it is. Shooting at and wounding a deer that eventually dies from the wounds is not natural mortality. Starvation, flooding, fighting, predation, birthing complications, drought, snake bites, hung in fences and car accidents are examples of natural mortality.
As managers, we can certainly control the harvest pressure and weapon accuracy, but can we really control natural mortality? Yes and no to be honest with you. Yes, we can alter the adult sex ratio and buck age structure to change the social structure of the deer herd. Yes, we can lower the predator populations to lessen their impact. Yes, we can even build wildlife-friendly fences to help them safely negotiate over or under or even through them without harm. Yes, we can create the perfect habitat that allows them to feed and travel with maximum safety and ease. Yes, we can keep the herd at or below natural carrying capacity so that everything has more than enough to eat. No, we cannot control the weather. No, we cannot control diseases in most cases. No, we cannot help those birthing mothers having trouble and no we cannot keep snakes from biting.
Natural mortality can be difficult to understand or downright confusing because it is oftentimes out of sight. But managers need to consider natural mortality when constructing their management plan and the annual harvest recommendations. You can lessen the impacts and effects, but you cannot eliminate it completely. Look at your ranch from a deer’s perspective and see what you can do differently.
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Posted in: Deer Management