Cat Fight with the USDA

Over the last few years, the Bent Tree Board of Directors has voluntarily entered into several contractual agreements with the USDA.  The contracted projects included deer spotlight surveys, deer culls, and Canada Goose removal.

  • Lately, the USDA has been in the news for another animal management issue.
  • Click here for the story.
  • Click here for the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling.

Note: The cat in the photo above has nothing to do with the Hemingway cats story.  It just showed up on a trailcam in Bent Tree in November…never saw the cat before, and have not seen it since.

“…and to verify the effectiveness of the deer herd reduction.”

Following is an excerpt from the approved minutes of the November 2012 Lake & Wildlife Committee meeting.  The choice of wording about the exclosures is interesting; to verify the effectiveness of the deer herd reduction”.  Click here for a previous post on a “Predetermined Outcome”.

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excerpt from November 2012 Lake & Wildlife Committee meeting minutes


It’s a wild, wild life

Today’s post is a recap of several previous posts that contain pictures of the wildlife here in beautiful Bent Tree. Click the following post titles to see the photos:

“Coyotes are acting as top predators on deer, and controlling their numbers.”

The title of this post is a direct quote from USDA Forest Service wildlife biologist John Kilgo (click here to read a previous post with information regarding coyote/deer research conducted by Kilgo).  Following are two photos of a coyote taken by a motion-activated gamecam in Bent Tree three days ago. The first picture is a little blurry, but you can see that the coyote is carrying something in its mouth.  Five minutes later, the coyote heads back the other way.  I’m assuming it is the same coyote, but it could possibly be two different ones.

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August 5, 2012 - coyote carrying something in its mouth

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August 5, 2012 - coyote in Bent Tree

“de facto” exclosures

The “vegetative study” which turned out to actually be “An Evaluation of Ecological Impacts of White-tailed Deer Browsing Over a Ten Year Period at the Bent Tree Community” has been the topic of two recent posts (click here to read Saturday’s post).  The fact that the report mentioned tick related diseases and deer-vehicle collisions, but never once mentioned drought/rain or shade/sunlight  is a good indicator of the substance of this “vegetative study”.

The summary section of the report states “A number of ‘de facto’ exclosures currently are found on Bent Tree.”  In the April 25, 2011 Bent Tree Cull Report, Steve Smith (USDA) said “Exclosures have worked well in Big Canoe as another tool to gauge the effects of deer browsing.  This should be done away from homes in areas with as little human influence as possible. This will help avoid claims of bias such as supplemental plantings, extra fertilization or watering and deer harassment.  The following photo of a yard in Bent Tree was taken last year (August 2011).  The yard has an electrified deer fence.  The yard receives extra watering (irrigation shown in action in the photo).  Inside the fence are supplemental plantings, and most likely extra fertilization.  And, the fence is obviously close to a home with human influence.  In other words, everything that Steve Smith said needed to be avoided.  Therefore, “ipso facto”,  this area is not a “de facto” exclosure that can be used for scientific analysisThe second photo below was taken last week in a lower elevation of Bent Tree.  This area is not fenced, has no supplemental plantings, no added fertilizer, no artificial irrigation, gets good partial sunlight, has deer, and has a good variety of native vegetation.

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August 13, 2011 - yard with electric fence, supplemental plantings, irrigation

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July 29, 2012 - unfenced vegetation on Bent Tree common property

It may not look like much…

…but, this plant found in Bent Tree is pretty special.  The plant is Monotropa hypopitys (common name is pinesap).  Pinesap differs from most plants because it does not contain chlorophyll and does not produce its food through photosynthesis; therefore pinesap is not dependent on sunlight to grow.  It is very easy to overlook when walking through the woods. The USDA plant profile database shows no documented pinesap in Pickens County (click here for link).

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June 19, 2012 - pinesap plant in Bent Tree


Coyotes and whitetail deer

Yesterday’s post included a picture of a coyote in Bent Tree, captured by a motion-activated gamecam in June.  The same gamecam photographed a black coyote in  Bent Tree last year (see photograph below).  Coyotes are natural predators of whitetail deer.  Recent research spearheaded by USDA Forest Service wildlife biologist John Kilgo shows that coyotes may be a game-changer in whitetail deer management.  Kilgo led a multi-year study on the effect coyotes are having on deer populations in the southeastern United States.  According to Kilgo, “Coyotes are acting as top predators on deer, and controlling their numbers.”  Kilgo said that in the last ten years, the South Carolina deer population has declined by over 35%, and that coyotes have played a major role in the decline.  See the link below for more information on the research.

September 4, 2011 – black coyote in Bent Tree


  • Following is a May 2012 video interview with Kilgo.

Note – the above video is made available for embedding in websites by US FS Science Delivery enabling the YouTube “Share” option


Check out this video from USDA Aphis.  They have developed an effective, safe contraceptive for white-tail deer.

GonaCon™ is registered with the EPA and is currently available to wildlife management agencies on the local, state and federal levels.  It must also be registered with a state (to be used in that state) and approved by the state fish/game agency.  As of last year, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources had not given their approval for the use of GonaCon™ in Georgia.

Note:  USDAAPHIS allows the sharing/embedding of this video by using the YouTube “Share” option.