July 29, 2014

Dr. Deer issues final report

(Photo: WDNR)

The final report from “Dr. Deer” offers a reset button between Wisconsin hunters and the DNR. The study offers a critique of the Department of Natural Resources’ deer herd management policies, along with a long list of suggested reforms.

Dr. James Kroll, the lead consultant on the project, says one of the main messages is to get the public more involved in developing localized management plans. That would include having hunters, tribal officials, and conservationists gathering the information that wildlife biologists need. Kroll says “people cannot argue with information they’ve gathered themselves.”

Kroll wants the DNR to stop using the current “Sex-Age-Kill” method for estimating the deer population, arguing it’s out of date and does not account for how hunters operate now. The report suggests the DNR develop a more modern approach by looking at methods other states, such have Virginia, are currently using.

The report also calls for the state to move to a passive approach in managing Chronic Wasting Disease. Passive management would involve continuing to track the disease but only moving to address it when there’s an outbreak, rather than creating special zones aimed at trying to eradicate the disease completely.

Attempts to rid the state of CWD completely lead to a number of unpopular policies from the DNR, such as Earn-A-Buck, that drew widespread anger from hunters. Despite strict limits, the disease has continued to show up in new areas across the state.

Hunters also draw some blame in the report, with Kroll saying many have unrealistic expectations about having a deer herd so large the state could not support it for very long. However, he says that’s partially because the DNR has kept them in the dark by not providing enough information over the years and they just “don’t know what’s going on out there.”

The DNR says it will review the report, but agency officials look forward to working on solutions that will help tackle the challenges it identifies.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:11)