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Poachers suspected in deaths of 2 university research deer

December 22, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two deer that were a part of a Mississippi State University and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks study are dead and poaching is suspected to be the cause.

Steve Demarais of the MSU Deer Lab said one of the animals was found shot about a month ago and a second buck’s carcass was found recently, The Clarion Ledger reported.

“One was found by a sheriff’s deputy shortly after it was shot,” Demarais said. “He still had the collar on him. They shot him with a small caliber rifle.”

Demarais said he’s unsure of why the suspected poacher or poachers did not take the buck.

“Maybe they got nervous when they saw the collar or saw a car and did not collect it,” he said.

The deer are part of a study that tracks and records the movement of mature bucks in parts of Madison and Yazoo counties along the Big Black River. It also records the bucks’ movements as they relate to hunting pressure.

The study began in 2016 when 55 mature bucks were captured and fitted with tracking collars utilizing GPS technology and ear tags. The collars send out both a GPS and VHF signal for tracking and locating the collars. Ten of them have gone silent.

Demarais said the second buck was considered to be a mobile buck because he had two home ranges.

“Another carcass was found badly decomposed,” Demarais said. “Apparently someone caught him near Virlilia Road as he was crossing his two home ranges. I think Virlilia Road is a hot spot for poachers.”

In this case, the collar was missing and has not transmitted in several weeks.

“The collar had to have been destroyed about the time the deer was poached because it never transmitted from the carcass location,” Demarais said.

“We can’t pick them up by flying over the area. We don’t know if those collars just stopped working, both the VHF signal and GPS, or if they were poached and the collars destroyed.”

The loss of the collars is also costly. Demarais said they cost about $3,000 and another $3,000 to $4,000 is spent collaring the deer.

Demarais said two other deaths of bucks in the study are suspected to be the work of poachers and at least two have been killed by hunters. While shooting the tagged and collared bucks is legal, hunters have been encouraged to not shoot them as the data they provide is more important than antlers hanging on a wall.

One hunter said he did not see the bright orange collar or ear tags on the buck he shot. Another apparently couldn’t resist temptation.

“It was a really nice 8-point with a kicker or two,” Demarais said. “It was a 160 class. It was a buck a hunter couldn’t resist.”

The study ends in March when the release mechanisms are set to go off, then two years of movement data will be sorted through. Although the purpose of the study is to see how mature bucks react to hunting pressure, it is expected to reveal much more.

“We’ll be milking this data for years,” Demarais has said.

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Information from: The Clarion Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

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