WV Wildlife: Biological Deer Checking Stations

Biological Deer Checking Stations were set up in Mason, Upshur and Hampshire counties for the first two days of buck gun season. (WCHS/WVAH)

Buck Firearms Season is now here!

Thousands of hunters will be harvesting deer over this nearly 2-week period, which also makes it a good time to examine and check the health of our Mountain State deer.

Eric Richmond, a Wildlife Manager with our West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, does just that; he has been examining deer for over 20 years now.

Recently, he was using that experience in Mason County--one of three counties in the state with biological deer examination stations.

"We're aging every animal that comes in, and we're taking some antler measurements--the outside spread, the number of points and some diameter measurements off of those antlers", said Richmond.

After the onset of the electronic game checking system--which allows hunters to check their game in via cellphone or a computer--these stations are especially important now for the DNR to be able to see how our deer herds are doing.

For the first two days of buck firearms season recently, successful hunters were required to stop by to have their deer looked at in a few select counties.

"That information provides us some indication of the overall herd health. Compare that information today to what it was 5 years ago, 10 years ago", said Richmond.

Aging the deer, by looking at their teeth--and comparing that to the size of their rack--is especially important information.

Richmond explains why.

"Your antler development is number one, age-dependent. Secondly, it's nutrition. Thirdly, it's genetics".

No hair samples are taken at these stations, but Richmond says--they always keep an eye out to see if any deer are sick.

"There will be evidence. In Mason County and throughout the state this year, we did have an outbreak of EHD--hemorrhagic disease".

Ultimately, all of this data should answer some important questions.

"Do we have too many deer on the landscape? Too much competition for how many groceries are out there? That will be reflected upon the size of the antlers”, said Richmond.

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