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johnbt
March 21, 2009, 04:01 PM
I saw this article in the morning paper. It's hard for many to believe that the large deer population is a fairly recent thing. I know we never saw any deer around my grandfather's 1500 apple trees way back in the mountains south of Charlottesville. Never. Bear and turkey and such, but never a deer. My father was born in 1922 and I came along in '50.

"...deer all but disappeared from western Virginia at the beginning of the 20th century, prompting the state to bring in deer from elsewhere.
...nearly 2,800 deer were brought to Virginia from other states by 1970, successfully restoring deer to the state."

Radford U. genetics professor Sheehy and his students hope to learn how the populations have mingled -- if they have -- and if they have migrated.

Thought you might enjoy some of the background info. John
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www.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/state_regional/article/DEER21_20090320-205818/237230/

By Rex Bowman

Published: March 21, 2009

(SLIDESHOW: Studying deer DNA Watch biology students at Radford University analyze samples to find out whether Virginia's growing deer population migrated from other states.)

Virginia's suburbanites and farmers often complain about the number of deer in the road and in the crops, but nobody knows where all those deer came from. Radford University biology professor Bob Sheehy aims to find out.

Naturally, he's asking his students to help him with the task.

Sheehy is using his genetics class and the 35 students in it to examine the DNA of Virginia's deer population in hopes of tracing its varied roots. He has also put hunters to work gathering slivers of deer DNA for the students to scrutinize.

What makes the result of the research likely to be intriguing is that much of Virginia's deer population can be traced to other states: deer all but disappeared from western Virginia at the beginning of the 20th century, prompting the state to bring in deer from elsewhere.

- Thirteen deer from West Virginia, for instance, were released in Rockingham County in 1926. Ten deer from North Carolina were let go in Washington County in 1930 and 1931. And, as the program expanded, hundreds more were released in counties west of the Blue Ridge from Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in the following decades.

Altogether, one academic count showed, nearly 2,800 deer were brought to Virginia from other states by 1970, successfully restoring deer to the state.

Now, Sheehy and his students hope to learn how the populations have mingled -- if they have -- and if they have migrated. Beyond the basic scientific understanding, Sheehy said, is the hands-on knowledge of DNA that students will get from analyzing fingernail-size pieces of deer.

"I'm always trying to find ways to introduce students to genetic variability at the molecular level," Sheehy said. "They often find it obtuse. I thought using deer would be great because there's a ready supply of deer."

One student who said he is getting a lot out of the project is Jon Hirst, a 22year-old junior and a graduate of Thomas Dale High School in Chester. "I've actually learned a lot more in the lab than in the lectures. It's showing you rather than telling you about it. And Professor Sheehy is very excited about genetics."

Sheehy said he hopes to receive samples of DNA from the states that sent deer to Virginia so his students can determine the basic genetic markers -- the stuff that makes them unique -- of each population. Then, year after year, new classes of students will participate in the project, building a database of deer DNA from throughout Virginia.

"This is real research for the students," Sheehy said, "and somebody will use the data further down the line."

bigthrills
March 24, 2009, 04:06 AM
Good read now about this land south of charlottesville what type of game is there now i lve in charlottesville but hunt in nelson and would love to branch out.

12GaugeShuggoth
March 24, 2009, 07:23 AM
I wonder, given the right circumstances, if in several decades someone will be tracing the origins of a large(er) resident Virginia elk population? Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it. :)

bigthrills
March 24, 2009, 01:14 PM
I would to just see an elk. The VA DGIF says those are killed in southwestern Virginia so the closer to Kentucky you are the more likely you are to see an elk.

Waterengineer
March 24, 2009, 01:33 PM
Have elk actually be reintroduced to their historic range in wester VA?

If so that is cool!

bigthrills
March 24, 2009, 04:52 PM
VA DGIF says they have no ELk populations because of the fear of cwd spreading to our deer herds. 27 elk have been harvested in VA since 2000http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/deer/elkcounties.jpg