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Deer season should be extended

On December 2, 2013

Judging from the carcasses slung over hoods and lying in truck beds around the mountain state, it would seem that the white-tail deer population is well under control.

This could not be further from the truth.

According to National Wildlife Research Center scientist Kurt VerCauteren, there are more white-tail deer in the U.S. today than there were before Columbus discovered America. The estimated 32 million deer (including white-tails and the western mule deer), is an 800 percent increase from the mid-1950s. Other common, hunt-able animals such as raccoon, beaver and wild turkey, have seen even more dramatic population growth of over 1,500 percent in that same time span.

The problem is particularly palpable in West Virginia. West Virginia topped State Farm Insurance’s list of states in which a motorist is most likely to hit a deer, putting the odds at one in 41 with the average repair bill costing around $3,000.

While a large deer population isn’t much of a threat (except to motorists), a large population of prey naturally results in an increase in apex predators such as wolves, grizzly bear and cougars. Though the first two have never been an issue in West Virginia, cougar sightings have spiked in recent years.

The obvious solution is to kill the deer. Last season, West Virginia hunters harvested 131,444 deer, but this is not enough.

West Virginia needs to extend hunting season, particularly the firearm season. In 2013 firearm season opened Nov. 25 and will run through Saturday. Beginning the season a week earlier would give hunters more time to thin out deer populations that have been inflated by protection as well as more abundant food provided by human intervention.

An earlier season would also give hunters a better opportunity during the height of the rut, deer mating season.

The rut is favorable for hunters because it encourages movement in deer, particularly the bucks that are most sought after. Any hunter will tell you that if the deer aren’t moving, it is a lot more difficult to have success.

For those out there who abhor the thought of a hunter shooting poor Bambi, consider this. If a hunter does not kill a deer, it’s most likely cause of death will be being hit by a car or starvation.

Beginning firearm season in West Virginia would be a win for hunters, deer populations and the state.

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