DNR: Mild winter improved North forecast
Deer populations in northern Wisconsin got a real boost this past year. An extremely mild winter combined with early spring conditions really helped deer come out of the winter in great shape. The early spring green-up allowed deer to put weight back on quickly and likely contributed to heavier weight fawns and multiple fawns surviving. In the past, these conditions usually result in good antler development in bucks. I would expect hunters will see this during the 2012 deer hunting season. Local DNR deer managers in the north recognize that deer are not equally distributed across the landscape. In other words, in some areas there may be very few deer and other areas more deer. This can be very frustrating for the deer hunter, me included.
The DNR also recognizes that we do not have all the answers and we need to rely on others for more information. This year, for example, our quota recommendations were developed based on reasonable and realistic levels from input we received from hunters attending our public deer forums.
We also rely on what hunters see out in the field. It is especially important to receive this information prior to the hunting season from the Summer Deer Observation survey during the months of August and September. Anyone can participate in this survey and send the results into the DNR. We always welcome more input and help with managing our deer herd. We share responsibility in this valued resource.
Another challenge we are all facing in Northern Wisconsin is the detection of a CWD-positive deer in Washburn County. This deer showed up as a ‘sick’ deer on the opening weekend of the nine-day gun season last year. It was euthanized and the test results clearly indicated it was CWD-positive. We are taking this very seriously, but we are also approaching it in a calm manner. We have developed a community-based approach to manage CWD in this area. We are reaching out to people in the community for ideas and feedback in how we should proceed.
Our first step is to determine the extent of the disease and to share this information widely. We have been collecting samples from road-killed deer and from willing landowners who are interested in getting more deer tested from their own property prior to the hunting season. During the fall deer season we will be testing hunter-harvested deer from an area over 300 square miles in size around this CWD-positive sample. This will be the first step to determine the extent of the disease. We must first determine if this is a ‘spark’ that can be snuffed out or a ‘widespread fire’ that we may have to manage. We will be relying on hunters in this area to make sure they get any adult deer harvested in this area sampled. After we learn about the extent of this disease, we will then collectively determine the appropriate response based on our community-based approach to manage CWD in northwest Wisconsin.
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