(Posted November 21, 2005)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- More than 60 Juniata College students will staff voluntary deer check stations for four days during hunting season at various popular entry points on the Raystown Lake Army Corps of Engineers property to collect research data for the college's environmental science program and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The students will set up between eight and 14 check stations at entry points to the 20,000-acre Raystown Lake acreage available for hunting managed by the Corps of Engineers. Hunters are under no obligation to use the stations, but Ramakrishnan and Jeff Krause, wildlife biologist for the Corps of Engineers, hope that hunters will voluntarily use the stations so the Raystown Lake habitat can better manage its deer herd. Only research data will be collected. The check stations will not be monitoring for compliance of hunting rules or looking for violations.

Each station will be equipped with deer scales and students will collect other information. According to Uma Ramakrishnan, assistant professor of environmental science, the students will staff the deer check station on the first two days of deer season (Nov. 28 and 29) and on Saturday, Dec. 3 and Saturday, Dec. 10.

"These check stations are strictly voluntary for hunters," says Ramakrishnan, who is a deer biologist and has done extensive research on deer at her previous position at the Connecticut Agricultural Research Station. "There will be signs on various entry roads telling hunters where the checking stations are."

Krause estimates 400 to 600 hunters use the acreage on the first day of deer season and says that more than 1,000 hunters applied for extra tags last season. The Corps of Engineers will use the data collected from the check stations to provide information for future recommendations under the Deer Management Assistance Program tags to issue next year. The DMAP program issues extra antlerless deer tags as a means to better manage the deer herd population on the Raystown Project lands.

The Juniata students will collect basic research information about each deer brought into the check stations, factors including weight, sex, the hunting tag number, spread of antlers if deer is male, an overall health assessment and the approximate age of the deer. The students are looking at three age categories: deer up to six months old, deer age 18 months or below, and deer more than 30 months old. "The students have all been trained to estimate deer age by looking at growth factors in the lower jaw," Ramakrishnan explains.

Army Corps of Engineers rangers will check in on the research check stations, but Juniata students will handle most of the data collection. "The students will gain experience working with the public and collecting scientific data," says Krause. 'The data will allow the Corps to make better decisions about managing the deer herd."

"This data can give us a very good idea of harvest rates and overall deer herd health," she says. After the data is collected several Juniata students will analyze the data to determine: the sex ratio of harvested deer, the age structure of the deer herd and herd health. "The primary use of the information collected is to determine the number of deer tags issued next year," Ramakrishnan. "The college research students will analyze the data to get an idea of deer representation in different habitat types as well as hunter success within each habitat type."

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.