Minnesota’s new deer plan sets a new statewide harvest target, increases citizen participation in deer management, and outlines ways to keep the population and habitat healthy.
The Department of Natural Resources is taking online public comments on the new plan now through Wednesday, May 9. Also, the DNR will hold 35 public meetings in April around the state so people can talk to wildlife managers, ask questions and provide input.
“We’re setting a course for deer management that encourages more dialogue among stakeholders, the public, and DNR staff,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “Our ultimate goal is to support our hunting traditions, better engage the public, and to maintain sustainable, healthy deer populations throughout Minnesota.”
Part of the plan outlines strategic ways the DNR will prioritize its resources and activities to meet the plan’s eight key goals, which range from keeping Minnesota deer healthy to ensuring biological and societal factors are considered in management decisions.
“The plan recognizes the diversity of interests, considers multiple objectives, and is informed by the best available science,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR acting wildlife populations and programs manager. “It also factors in ways to reduce the negative impacts deer can have on people and the landscape.”
The plan establishes an annual statewide harvest target of 200,000 deer. Although only one of several performance measures outlined in the plan, the harvest target will help communicate how the DNR is meeting overall population goals through time.
In general, annual harvests less than 200,000 will indicate a need for more conservative regulations to rebuild deer populations. Harvests greater than 200,000 will suggest hunting regulations need to be liberalized so more deer are harvested to reduce populations.
“It’s important for people to know we’ll be measuring our performance in a variety of ways, from increased opportunities for public engagement to improving deer habitat and limiting disease,” McInenly said. “That strategy will inform us if objectives are being met and what areas need more work.”
McInenly added that the plan doesn’t address the details of specific regulations or operational issues, but rather plots a long-term strategic direction for managing the herd.
For more than a year, a 19-member citizen’s advisory group helped the DNR draft the deer plan. The group’s members had knowledge of deer management, interests related to deer and familiarity with different areas of the state.
“I want to express the agency’s great appreciation for the substantial public input and work of committee members in developing the plan,” McInenly said.
Public can now comment on new plan
The public can comment on the proposed plan on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/deerplan.
A questionnaire asks people to indicate their level of satisfaction with the purpose, mission, vision and goals of the plan and provides opportunity for people to give additional feedback on whether the plan reflects the conversation and public input over the last few years.
Also, the DNR’s 35 open house meetings in April will help people understand the deer plan. “The open houses provide an opportunity to learn more about the plan, ask questions, and meet the local staff who help manage wildlife and habitat,” McInenly said.
There will be no formal presentation at the meetings. Instead, local wildlife staff will provide handouts explaining the deer plan and process and will talk with attendees individually and in small groups. All meetings are scheduled from 6-8 p.m. and people can arrive anytime during the two-hour time frame. A meeting is scheduled in Whitewater on Thursday, April 26, at Whitewater Wildlife Management Area Office, 15035 Highway 74.
For those who can’t make the meetings, DNR is encouraging the public to contact their local wildlife manager for additional information or to address any questions they may have about the deer plan. A list of area wildlife offices is available online at mndnr.gov/areas/wildlife.
Information about the deer plan, scheduled open houses, background information and a link to submit online comments are on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/deerplan.