by Todd A. Black
Estimating the number of animals
Being able to manage a population of big game so that it stays healthy and productive without degrading the habitat is a critical aspect of any wildlife operation. Being able to monitor and determine where the population is relative to carrying capacity can be a difficult task depending on several factors. However, this monitoring is the key to having a sustainable healthy population. Estimation of the number of animals is basic to the study of animal populations. This is no small task in wild populations but it is critical to have a sucessful wildlife program on your ranch. Several different censusing methods have been developed allowing us to derive a ‘sampling estimate’ and ‘indices’ of certain species of wildlife, including big game animals. This important information is critical in determing harvest objectives, maintaining the propper sex ratios, and recruitment into the population.
The condition of the habitat and available forage in general can be important indicators. Over browsing, such as browse lines or loss of sensitive forage species, can be a good indicator of over population of big game animals. Another method is to monitor the nutritional status of the population. This may suggest a courses of action for populations that exist at low densities or that are not as productive as expected. If the animals are in good nutritional condition, then some other factor (predation, over hunting, disease, etc…) may be having a negative impact on the population and should be addressed in the management plan.
Collecting harvest and mortality data
Collection of harvest data and mortality measurments is imperative when analyzing widlife populations. Coupled with a knowledge of ‘age structure’, ‘recuritment’, ‘growth curves’, and other data we are able to construct life tables for wildlife populations. Again this data is critical when dealing with big game animals and allows for more accurate data enabling us to track populations over time.
How Can We Help You?
With knowledge of your operation and where anaimals have traditionally been observed, we are able to establish transects. These transects allow us to count (sample) the animals on your ranch. Pre-season, usually take place 15 August-15 September while post season counts are usually conducted between 15 November-15 December. We use a combination of census methods which allow us to sample large areas and improve our overall population estimates. Additionally, we collect important harvest data on all (male/female) animals harvest by hunters and incidental mortality throughout the year.
These initial census areas and routes can usually be established in one day. Once these areas have been established, we have our professionally trained biologist come out and count (sample), and classify your wildlife populations. This informaiton not only helps to track important wildlife on your ranch but is critical when dealing with state agencies in determining harvest objectives and management plans for your ranch.