DNR to seek public input on deer-goal recommendations

St. Paul — Hunters in 40 of the state’s permit areas soon will be able to provide comment on the deer population goals citizen teams have recommended.

The DNR by April 2 will post at www.mndnr.gov/deer the teams’ recommendations – and the factors they cited in making the recommendations. Online comments on the citizen teams’ recommendations will be accepted through April 15.

After that, the agency will evaluate team recommendations and the public comments. Then it will determine final population goals for each the permit areas.

“We’ve been hearing from folks that they are interested in increasing deer populations,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big-game program leader. “A lot of the recommendations are going to reflect that.”

Teams could recommend no change in the deer population, or 25- or 50-percent increases or decreases. Historically, teams also have been able to recommend a 10-percent increase or decrease, but that option isn’t available this go-around.

“(A 10-percent increase or decrease) isn’t  something we feel confident we can measure and report back on,” McInenly said.

And teams can’t recommend increasing the deer herd by more than 50 percent. One reason for that is the DNR plans to revisit population goals on a more frequent basis going forward – perhaps every three to five years, instead of every 10 years.

“To aim for an increase beyond (50 percent) isn’t necessarily anything we think we can commit to in a few years, just given the biology and the other factors that influence year-to-year population change,” McInenly said.

Members of the citizen teams include deer hunters, but also area residents and landowners; farmers; land managers; local government staff and appointed officials; local business owners; and members of hunting, conservation, and agricultural organizations, according to the DNR.

While the teams have been “working pretty hard to reach consensus” on deer population goals, there’s been at least one permit area from each block in which teams couldn’t arrive at consensus, McInenly said.

“There is a divergence in terms of opinions,” she said.

Once the DNR establishes the final goals for each permit area, the goals will be announced, and then wildlife managers will decide on the harvest strategies they’ll use to meet them. Those strategies will be in place this fall.

2016 goal-setting

Next year, the DNR plans to set population goals for permit areas in the western and south-central parts of the state. Once that’s complete, population goals in all permit areas of the state will have been updated since 2012.

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