"We've used it to determine deer densities on some of our older-age deer management areas such as the Bluestone and McClintic wildlife management areas," he explained. "This is the first time we're going at it from a statewide perspective."
He hastened to add that no deer would be shot during the surveys, and that crews would not enter private land.
"Previously, and always with landowners' permission, we've done surveys where we killed and collected the deer for tissue samples," he said. "Those surveys were done in Hampshire County, where we needed to test for chronic wasting disease. The current spotlight surveys are nothing like that. We won't be shooting deer. We'll only be counting them."
Crews have been doing the surveys for more than a week now, and Johansen said the effort would continue through mid-September.
"We've been trying to get the word out so people would be able to recognize these crews for what they are and not mistake them for poachers," he said.
"We're aware that West Virginians have a natural concern about spotlighting and potential illegal activity. We've gone out of our way to get in touch with local communities, notifying the news media and handing out flyers so folks will know what we're doing."
Spotlight surveying requires some pretty sophisticated training. Johansen said the DNR brought in a nationally recognized authority on the technique to conduct the training.
"And the training was pretty extensive," he said. "We'll be using this technique a lot more. We believe it will give us much more detailed information about our deer population.
"In the past we'd always used the buck harvest per square mile in each county as an indicator of population size. With spotlight distance sampling, we'll be able to get a better idea of deer populations within specific areas of a given county."