DNR re-evaluating its deer population goals
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will
begin reassessing deer population goals this spring.
From 2005 through 2007 the DNR used an extensive public input process
to establish deer population goals for all of the state's
approximately 130 deer permit areas. Now that those goal populations
have been achieved in most areas, the DNR will use a similar process
to reevaluate population goals in 23 permit areas in southwestern and
"Hunter dissatisfaction has increased as deer numbers have decreased
to meet established goals," said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife programs
manager. "In fact, hunters are even expressing disappointment in
certain areas where deer populations have increased to meet goals." As
a result, he said, the agency wants to revisit population goals in
order to strike the right balance between hunter, landowner and other
societal and resource interests.
The last time the DNR set population goals about one-half of the
state's deer hunting permit areas were slated for deer reductions.
Conversely, about 40 percent of permit areas were slated for deer
increases. Most of these areas were in the farmland country of western
and southern Minnesota. Today, nearly 70 percent of deer populations
are within goal, while 15 percent remain below goal and 18 percent are
"To a large degree we have achieved what we aimed to do," said
Merchant. "However, many Minnesota hunters are telling us they are not
seeing the number of deer they have in the past. So, we intend to
formally listen to their voices and those of others prior to setting
2012 deer hunting bag limits." The agency intends to use the new
population goals as an information tool for making 2012 deer season
The entire statewide reassessment process will take more than one
year. Like last time, Merchant said, he expects stakeholders to bring
forward their concerns about hunter satisfaction, forest health, crop
depredation, deer-vehicle collisions and more. In the rest of the
state where deer are at or below goal, DNR will set regulations for
the fall of 2012 that will maintain or increase populations until the
statewide goal review process is completed.
Minnesota's deer population has swung significantly over the past 50
years. In 1971, for example, the state closed the deer hunting season
because the population was too low. The DNR rebuilt the deer herd
through tighter hunting regulations during the following decades. The
deer harvest peaked at 290,000 in 2003 as the agency began to reduce
deer numbers. Last year's harvest was 192,300, down 7 percent from the
previous year and 15,000 fewer than the 2010 harvest.