Wis. deer population remains 44 percent over goal

Posted March 09, 2012, at 2:33 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. — State wildlife officials estimate Wisconsin had 1.14 million deer after the 2011 hunting seasons, a figure essentially unchanged from last year but 44 percent higher than the state’s goal.

The state Department of Natural Resources is required to manage the deer herd to a population goal of 796,000.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report says the DNR will hold meetings throughout the state this month to gather public input on deer management.

To simplify the process of managing the herds, the state is divided into about 120 deer management units. The DNR estimates that 22 units are below their prescribed population goals and 97 — including all units in the southern half of the state — are above them.

“We’ll be looking at each unit as we plan for the 2012 hunting seasons,” said Kevin Wallenfang, a DNR big-game ecologist. “As usual, it will be a balancing act.”

Five units in northern Wisconsin are more than 20 percent under their goal. For the last three seasons, the DNR limited or prohibited antlerless deer harvest in those areas to help encourage population growth.

“Those units in the north remain a concern to us,” said Ralph Fritsch, chairman of the wildlife committee of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. “We believe the number of antlerless permits needs to be kept very low, if not at zero, to allow the deer to come back.”

Lawmakers passed a 2011 law that eliminated the DNR’s use of earn-a-buck regulations across the state. The regulations required hunters to kill an antlerless deer before they could bag a trophy buck.

Wallenfang said the agency is recommending a four-day hunt for antlerless deer in October in the management zone for chronic wasting disease.

The DNR also wants to hear from hunters about deer management. The agency will hold meetings throughout the state this month to share information with hunters and gather public input.

The deer-hunter forums will feature local biologists to discuss deer-harvest history, population estimates, sex and age ratios, aging information and fawn-to-doe ratios.

Hunters may also provide information at http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/topic/hunt/forum.html.

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