Minnesota DNR proposes 10-year deer management plan

Published 5:06 pm Monday, April 9, 2018

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources proposed a new 10-year plan Monday to manage the state’s deer population and allow for more citizen input.

The plan sets a statewide harvest goal of 200,000 deer. That’s about 25,000 below what the state’s largest deer group wants, the Star Tribune reported.

Leaders of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association have said a harvest closer to 225,000 would provide enough opportunities for hunters while balancing landowners’ interests. Landowners sometimes have complained that Minnesota has too many deer.

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DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the agency is “setting a course for deer management that encourages more dialogue among stakeholders, the public, and DNR staff.”

“Our ultimate goal is to support our hunting traditions, better engage the public, and to maintain sustainable, healthy deer populations throughout Minnesota,” Landwehr said in a news release.

The DNR will take online public comments on the plan through May 9. The agency also will hold 35 public meetings in April around Minnesota.

The plan sets eight key goals ranging from keeping the deer population healthy to making sure biological and societal factors are part of management decisions, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. The focus is on long-term strategic management of Minnesota’s whitetail deer herd.

“Our goal is to communicate a long-term vision for deer management,” said DNR acting wildlife populations and programs manager Leslie McInenly. She added that the plan addresses concerns of non-hunters as well as hunters.

Under the plan, the DNR will increase communication with hunters and others interested in deer. A statewide input group will be formed, and other efforts will be made to increase transparency about the way deer are managed, McInenly said.

For more than a year, the DNR has met with a 19-member citizens’ advisory group to develop the state’s first deer management plan. That follows complaints by some hunters and legislators that the DNR poorly oversaw the state’s whitetail herd. A 2016 report by Minnesota’s legislative auditor recommended the agency establish a statewide deer management plan.

The plan acknowledges the threat deer feeding represents to whitetails, especially with the spread of chronic wasting disease in southeastern Minnesota. But the proposal stops short of suggesting a statewide deer feeding ban. While DNR wildlife managements believe deer feeding represents a threat to the state herd, the practice remains popular among Minnesotans, McInenly said.

“Right now, support among the public for a ban is probably not high,” she said.