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Minnesota DNR unveils statewide deer management plan

The Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday, July 25, 2018, announced specifics of its Minnesota White-tailed Deer Management Plan, which will guide deer management and DNR performance in achieving management goals from 2019 through 2028. Courtesy photo / Minnesota Department of Natural Resources1 / 2
Leslie McInenly, Minnesota DNR2 / 2

ST. PAUL — Efforts to build and maintain relationships with deer hunters and the general public, reducing chronic wasting disease in wild deer and tracking performance are key components of a new comprehensive statewide deer management plan the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday, July 25.

Two years in the making, the Minnesota White-tailed Deer Management Plan outlines eight broad goals the DNR will be working to achieve in managing deer. Those goals range from healthy deer herds and healthy habitats to a "real emphasis" on communication, engaging stakeholders and measuring DNR performance, said Leslie McInenly, wildlife populations program manager for the DNR in St. Paul.

The DNR developed the plan with input from a 19-member citizen advisory committee that met 13 times, statewide public input meetings and more than 1,100 submitted comments and letters from tribal governments, hunting groups and others.

"Really, we see the plan as providing a framework to help the public better understand our deer management priorities and activities, as well as the various opportunities to get involved and influence deer management," McInenly said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

The plan will guide Minnesota deer management for the next 10 years.

Focus on CWD

Reducing and eliminating chronic wasting disease on the landscape, if possible, will be a priority as the plan moves from development to implementation, McInenly said.

A degenerative brain disease, CWD is fatal to deer and related species such as elk and moose.

"The long-term health of Minnesota's wild deer and the need to work aggressively to eliminate the disease if possible was a key concern raised by the advisory committee and members of the public during plan review," McInenly said.

As part of its efforts to engage stakeholders, the DNR in late August will announce opportunities for the public to meet with area DNR wildlife managers across the state to learn more about how the agency makes deer management decisions and sets hunting regulations, McInenly said.

"This is a statewide plan, but when it gets down to it, people are interested in deer in their local area, and so we tried to provide a little bit of additional information on where they can find data about deer in their local deer permit areas," McInenly said.

The DNR for years has offered hunter attitude surveys, but it hasn't had a comprehensive way of letting people know what goes into managing deer, McInenly said. More frequent and regular hunter and public opinion surveys will help the DNR measure satisfaction and identify areas that might need improvement.

The DNR will use 15 performance measures to track its progress in meeting the plan's goals, she said. Those performance measures include a statewide harvest target of 200,000 deer annually, a number indicating deer populations are in goal range in most permit areas.

The plan also calls for recruiting, retaining and reactivating hunters while minimizing deer depredation and deer-vehicle collisions.

"A part of communicating these goals is helping people realize that deer management is really a balancing act," McInenly said. "That will be reflected in our performance measures to help us track and communicate where we're hitting those goals well and moving our deer management toward that vision."

The DNR will review the plan in five years to review how well it is meeting its goals and performance measures, she said.

The 50-plus page plan is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/deerplan.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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