Virginia hunters might encounter deer with a collar, don’t worry.

ELKINS, W.Va. – As hunters head into the woods for the 2021 male season, don’t worry if you spot a deer wearing a collar.

“All collared deer are legal as long as you hunt legally. We don’t want anyone to look at a collared deer and think twice about it. Don’t let the necklace influence your decision. If you want to harvest that deer, go ahead, ”said Brett Skelly, deputy head of the deer project for the West Virginia Natural Resources division.

Several males of all age groups are collared as part of the study looking at causes of death and movement.

Skelly is engaged in the first year of a three-year study to try and answer some common questions about white-tailed deer in West Virginia. Skelly and her team hope to determine the extent of deer movement, especially movement at different times of the year such as during the rut. It also analyzes the difference in movement between males and females. After less than a year, the study has already found interesting data on GPS tracking collars.

“One of the big things has definitely been the movement of yearlings, especially at this time of year. Several of these males have moved five or six miles from where they braced them and established a whole new home range. We had a buck that moved 15 miles and since the presentation at the Natural Resources Commission meeting he has moved an additional three miles, ”Skelly said.

The deer were tagged and fitted with GPS collars during the months of January through March in three different areas of the state. The counties of Hampshire and Hardy, Barbour and Upshur, and Mason and Jackson are the study sites. The objective is to eventually have 120 deer fitted with collars in the three study areas. Another unique aspect is that all of the deer captured in the study are on private land.

“The next step is to go through the hunting season and see how many deer we have left. Then, in January, February and March, we will capture and stick several more deer, ”he explained.

Another key question the study aims to answer concerns how deer die. Cause-specific mortality is difficult to know, but Skelly hoped they would be able to manage it better by the time the study was completed. Since a lot of deer die at the hands of hunters, this was another reason he hoped hunters would ignore the collar and if they were planning to kill a deer, go ahead and kill it.

So far there have been two deer killed by hunters wearing a collar. Skelly noted the mortality he has recorded so far during his presentation to the Commissioners.

Biologists are studying deer as they are trapped and tagged from January to March and hope to add more over the next two years.

“There was a traffic accident and I had two hunters killed before I even entered gun season. We had two that were clinical chronic wasting disease. A few predations and a few, we couldn’t quite understand what had happened to them, ”he explained.

The study will hopefully give the biologist additional information to shape management plans for the coming years in various parts of West Virginia.

Anyone who kills a deer wearing a collar is asked to contact Skelly via the contact details on the collar. Each of the deer selected for the study has a metal band in each ear that also contains contact information. The agency wants the collar to be used again and would like to take one last look at the deer to compare its current condition to the condition it was originally captured.

Elizabeth J. Harless