Predator hunters’ top concern: Kroll report

Madison — The initial report from three contracted “deer trustees” listed five main issues from hunters and landowners, with “too many predators” being the No. 1 problem with the state’s deer program.

The top five “issues” were:

  • Too many predators;
  • DNR does not listen;
  • Inaccurate deer population estimates;
  • Come to a decision on baiting;
  • Eliminate earn-a-buck (EAB).

Those responses came from about 680 hunters and about 490 landowners who filed their deer thoughts online for Dr. James Kroll, Dr. David Guynn, Jr., and Dr. Gary Alt, the three men contracted by the Department of Administration to review the state’s deer-management program.

Since then, the No. 5 issue, EAB, was eliminated by legislators.

If EAB is removed from the top five, then “too many antlerless tags” and “want antler-point restrictions” would rank next in line.

“Interestingly enough, the only issue receiving less than 200 comments was ‘no change needed,’ ” the three authors wrote.

The report includes 186 pages overall, but only the first 21 pages discuss the trio’s findings or impressions of the Wisconsin deer program. Pages 21-62 list the resumes for the three men. The remaining pages appear to be borrowed from the Conservation Congress’s Deer Management for 2000 and Beyond effort.

Their summary reads, “Public confidence in the Wisconsin DNR in regard to deer management issues has seriously eroded over the last few decades. The reasons are complex and not easily solved, but revolve primarily around two key issues – the current use of the SAK Population Model and the ineffectiveness of the CWD eradication program. However, lack of public involvement, particularly by landowners, in goal setting and decision-making regarding deer management lie at the heart of the problem.

“As we noted above, these problems did not arise overnight and hence the solutions will also take time. The predation issue also should be addressed immediately as should the development of an overall plan for deer management in Wisconsin. People, deer, predators and habitats should be considered as components of an ecosystem approach to management, not independent elements.

“The next step in this process will be to present our findings to the public through several media outlets, as well as at the town hall meetings, to solicit solutions and strategies to develop a citizen-based, team effort toward developing a white-tailed deer management model for the 21st century.”

Kroll, Guynn and Alt covered some ground in highlighting conclusions that they’ve reached so far. One area they talked about was predators: “Concerns by landowners, hunters and non-hunters about predators have grown over the last decade. Our review produced the following conclusions:”

  • The current wolf population is at least three times higher than the goal;
  • As with the deer herd, there are questions regarding precision of wolf population estimates;
  • This has not been due to inaction by the DNR, rather federal regulations providing protection to wolves;
  • Impacts of predators on deer populations have not been adequately studied, and there are few data related to the role of predators in the deer ecosystem;
  • The recently initiated mortality and recruitment study will provide much needed information, but it is limited to only two study areas; understandably due to cost of such studies;
  • There was a significant delay between identification of key needs and actually starting this study;
  •  Particularly absent are data on impacts of bobcats, coyotes and bears on deer recruitment, especially in relation to habitat quality.

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director George Meyer had a chance to fully review the report on March 29. “It is important to stress two things: first, this is a preliminary report, and secondly, its purpose was to mirror back what the group learned from their previous stakeholder/agency meetings and what they read from DNR and other reports,” said Meyer.

“My initial thoughts are that there are some good and valid observations in the report and some reasonable ideas for change in deer management in Wisconsin. I do think that in places the report was overly harsh, especially considering the overall quality of deer hunting in Wisconsin, and I do believe that the report concentrates on the negative and does not deal with the positive aspects of DNR’s deer management. This latter point is likely because they were hearing from some who have very strong negative feelings about the current management system.

“I think that we need to see what transpires at the (April) hearings, what they glean from those ‘solution focused’ meetings and what their final reports says,” said Meyer.

Deer meetings

Six April town hall forums will be offered across the state as a means of giving sportsmen a chance to deliver their thoughts on Wisconsin deer management to Kroll. Kroll will be looking for sportsmen to offer solutions to the issues he outlined in last week’s preliminary report.

The meetings will be held at the following locations:

  • Appleton – Monday, April 16, 7-10 p.m., Appleton North High School, 5000 N. Ballard Rd.;
  • Rhinelander – Tuesday, April 17, 7-10 p.m. Rhinelander High School auditorium, 665 Coolidge Avenue;
  • Hayward – Wednesday, April 18, 7-10 p.m., Hayward Intermediate School gymnasium, 15930 W. 5th Street;
  • Black River Falls – Thursday, April 19, 7-10 p.m., Black River Falls Middle School Lunda Theater, 1202 Pierce Street;
  • Mount Horeb – Friday, April 20, 7-10 p.m., Mount Horeb High School auditorium 305 S. 8th St.;
  • Milwaukee – Saturday, April 21, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tommy G. Thompson Youth Center, Wisconsin State Fair Park, 640 South 84th Street, West Allis.
Categories: Hunting News, Whitetail Deer

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