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Climate Change "Game Changer" for VA Big Game

PHOTO: A new National Wildlife Federation report outlines how climate change is affecting big game, making a connection between a bleeding disease and deer in Virginia. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
PHOTO: A new National Wildlife Federation report outlines how climate change is affecting big game, making a connection between a bleeding disease and deer in Virginia. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
November 14, 2013

VIENNA, Va. – A history lesson and a warning about the changing climate are part of a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) that focuses on big game.

It notes that huge investments were made in the 20th century, mostly paid by hunters through taxes, to restore species.

Today, many of those animals are being impacted by severe drought, wildfires and changes in timing of the seasons.

Doug Inkley, the report’s author, explains that even Virginia's plentiful deer were hit with a hemorrhagic disease last year, spread by tiny, biting insects.

"And the reason the proliferation in hot, dry times is because the water sources dry up and so the deer congregate where the no-see-ums (insects) are," Inkley explains.

The report says not all big game are negatively impacted by climate change. Bears are resilient and elk may fare better, at least in the short-term.

According to Todd Tanner, founder of Conservation Hawks, who lives near Kalispell, no one can claim not to see what's happening.

"We have to get our act together,” Tanner says. “There's literally no time to waste. When you're a hunter, when you're someone who spends time on the landscape, this is personal."

The report recommends taking climate change into account for natural-resource management, maintaining connections between winter and summer ranges and identifying future habitats for animals as their primary grounds become degraded.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - VA