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MDF Hires Jim Baichtal, Joins Partners at Sitka Blacktail Summit on Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island

MDF Hires Jim Baichtal, Joins Partners at Sitka Blacktail Summit on Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island

At a regional Sitka Black-tailed Deer Summit on Prince of Wales Island last week, the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) announced that Jim Baichtal has joined the organization as its Alaska Regional Coordinator. Jim recently retired from a 40-year career with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the last 32 years of that work in Southeast Alaska; he is well regarded for his volunteer efforts with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and university researchers studying Sitka black-tailed deer. Baichtal and MDF Chief Conservation Officer Steve Belinda joined with partners at the three-day summit to discuss future opportunities for conservation and habitat management to improve deer populations in southeastern Alaska (specifically AFG Unit 2). During the week, MDF also hosted three community events in Sitka, Ketchikan, and Craig to help rebuild member and chapter engagement in the region.

“The Mule Deer Foundation is looking forward to working with our partners in Southeast Alaska on projects that will improve habitat for Sitka black-tailed deer,” Belinda commented. “Jim Baichtal has extensive history in this area—he knows the people, the habitat, and understands what the deer need. He will be a tremendous resource as we increase our commitment to our mission: ensuring the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer, and their habitat.”

Baichtal and Belinda were speakers at the 2022 Deer Summit hosted in Craig, Alaska, October 13-15, which was held to bring together locals, agency staff, and other knowledgeable stakeholders to discuss the current situation of black-tailed deer on Prince of Wales Island. In the opening session, Baichtal presented information about the declines in Sitka black-tailed deer due to old growth habitat loss and young growth stands in stem exclusion, as well as overviews of his experiences with deer research and his direct observations from hunting and working with deer for almost four decades. Belinda explained the role MDF intends to play on habitat improvements using Stewardship End Results Contracting authority and how MDF’s experience in other USFS regions can help with the situation in Southeast Alaska.  Other summit speakers presented research findings, described changes that have been observed on the island, and outlined opportunities to address the identified issues of habitat, predation, and regulated harvest. Community members were also present to provide native and non-native local perspectives on the social, cultural, economic, and political factors influencing deer populations.

Baichtal’s role in MDF’s work in Alaska will be a tremendous asset for increasing the organization’s presence in the region. For nearly 25 years, Jim has volunteered for Alaska Department of Fish and Game and university researchers studying Sitka black-tailed deer, helping researchers monitor winter mortality, recover radio collars, collect fecal pellets for DNA population analysis, and assess deer habitat. Realizing a need for accurate information on Sitka Black-tailed deer, Jim, Dr. Sophie Gilbert, and Dr. Todd Brinkman created the Sitka Black-Tailed Deer Coalition, to raise awareness and support for research. Joining the Mule Deer Foundation as the Alaska Regional Coordinator, Jim will support MDF’s habitat work and grassroots efforts within Alaska. He will be the key contact for MDF’s partnerships in Alaska, working with federal, state, and tribal agencies as well as the public to enhance Sitka black-tailed deer habitat, raise funds for conservation work, and develop chapters and membership in Alaska.

“I am really excited about this opportunity to work with MDF to give back to an animal that has stirred my passion for decades, and now is in need of some help in my home of Southeast Alaska,” Baichtal concluded.

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