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Deer-tracking project starts in December

November 17, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

SHARPSBURG - A study to track the movements of white-tailed deer at Antietam National Battlefield will begin early next month.

Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof said deer will be trapped, marked and released, then monitored.

The battlefield is federal land where hunting is not permitted.

"In that sense, it becomes a refuge for deer and wildlife," Wenschhof said.

The study will look at how far deer move, when they leave, when they return, the habitats they prefer and other patterns in their lives.

Wenschhof said the goal is to have at least 100 deer in the study, which could take about three months.

The National Park Service has awarded the project a $12,000 Challenge Cost Share grant. Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va., pledged to match that with $6,000 in cash and $6,000 in labor and assistance.


The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Smithsonian Institution's Conservation and Research Center also are participating in the study.

Antietam National Battlefield employees have been counting the deer population each spring and fall for the past three years.

Duane Marcus, a biological technician at the battlefield, said the fall 2001 study found a density of 90 deer per square mile.

The fall 2002 study showed 101 deer per square mile. But factoring in the statistical standard error, it will take another few samples to determine whether the population has increased, Marcus said.

In the study that starts in December, deer will be captured in one of three ways: With a large box trap, a 70-foot-by-70-foot drop net or a tranquilizer dart.

Study coordinators hope that people who own land within two miles of the battlefield will watch for marked deer and report their movements.

Wenschhof said letters have been sent to 94 nearby landowners.

Peter Vila, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Shepherd College, and three or four of his students are scheduled to help capture deer, observe them and collect data.

About five other volunteers will donate time, too, Wenschhof said.

He said other ongoing battlefield wildlife studies look at the impact deer have on woodland reforestation and crop yield, deer herd health and roadkill.

To help ...

People who own land no more than two miles from Antietam National Battlefield can help monitor the movements of deer as part of a project that will start in early December. Call the battlefield's Division of Natural Resources Management at 301-432-2243 to volunteer.

Hunters who legally kill marked deer also are asked to call that number.

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