Tuesday, January 12, 2010

When It Comes to the Wisconsin Deer Herd: Its a Numbers Game

As the deer population number debate goes on, its time to become educated on how numbers are derived when determining population counts. Obviously, the numbers arent going to be exact, but numbers should be close....or closer.  Here is a good article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the numbers game that is being played from hunters in Wisconsin, state officials and  the Wisconsin DNR.

"DNR's numbers don't add up

Hunters are taking fewer deer, and that could be because there are fewer deer out there than the DNR says. That's a problem.

The state Department of Natural Resources says it is listening to deer hunters' complaints about the agency's management of the state's deer herd. If so, it needs to do a better job of convincing hunters because many of them aren't buying the explanation.

Hunters' complaints need to be more seriously addressed, especially on management issues and on how the agency estimates the size of the herd. A thorough review of both is in order.

The dissatisfaction has only increased in the wake of the last gun deer season, in which hunters registered 195,647 deer, the fewest in 27 years and 29% fewer than in 2008. Journal Sentinel business reporter Joe Taschler reported that the effect of the low numbers is being felt across a number of businesses, including body shops, butchers, farmers, taxidermists and auto insurance companies.

"If you've lost the hunters, you've lost the program," state Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) said at a public hearing last month, waving a packet of 8,400 comments from hunters.

Kedzie's right. The DNR - and Wisconsin - can't afford to lose the hunters.

Ron Kulas, a representative of the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, presented data at last month's public hearing showing car-deer collisions have fallen to the same level as 1983, when the DNR post-hunt population was 586,000 deer.

And Greg Kazmierski, representing the Wisconsin Hunters Rights Coalition, said the 2009 gun deer harvest of bucks was the lowest since 1980, when the DNR estimated 565,000 deer overwinter.

The current overwinter goal is 737,000 deer, but there is reason to question the DNR's numbers given the claims of hunters. The DNR cannot manage the herd or set reasonable population goals if its numbers are off. The state is slated to receive an estimated $14.4 million this year from a wildlife restoration fund. It should use that to improve herd estimates and to get a better handle on such factors as the effect of natural predators and the loss of some previous hunting areas to development and private purchases. The state also needs to look at its regulations on hunting antlerless deer.

Hunters aren't the only ones putting pressure on the DNR. In a unanimous vote, the Assembly Committee on Fish and Wildlife and the Senate Committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry and Natural Resources refused last week to approve the DNR's proposal for its deer population goals for this winter, sending the proposal back to the DNR for revision.

As Journal Sentinel outdoors writer Paul Smith has pointed out, deer management is a tough job. And it certainly gets tougher when state officials have to also deal with mitigating factors such as chronic wasting disease, a deadly and not fully understood wildlife disease that has the potential to devastate the deer's herd.

It's also true that, as DNR Secretary Matt Frank has argued, that the agency has to balance a number of complex factors when setting deer population goals, including hunting, forestry, agriculture, public safety and animal disease. And it's entirely possible that some hunters have become spoiled by the large size of deer herds in previous years.

But even with all that, something is still not right. State officials need to do a better job of responding to the concerns of hunters and legislators."

Source :http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/81039082.html
Date: Posted: Jan. 9, 2010

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