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Arkansas Deer Plan Emphasizes Information, Data Collection

From Arkansas Game Commission

-- Nearly two years in the making, the Strategic White-tailed Deer Management Plan of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is broad, far-ranging and ambitious.

The plan was approved by AGFC's commissioners at their February meeting in Dumas.

It is unique in that several dozen private citizens were selected for idea and planning sessions, and their influence is reflected in a number of the plan's objectives.

The plan supplants a 1999 deer management plan for Arkansas. It is called the 2007 plan because most of it was constructed last year.

Objectives of the new plan are divided into six categories - Resource, Sociological, Education, Communication, Habitat and Enforcement. Today's focus is on a summary of the Resource portion of the plan.

The plan calls for dividing the state into Deer Management Units (DMU). These are for AGFC's management work and are not the same as deer zones, which are used for hunting regulations, seasons and bag limits.

Within the DMUs, the wildlife management staff of the AGFC will "determine, manage and monitor herd health and productivity by utilizing winter and summer herd health checks as needed, in conjunction with biological date collected from harvested deer." A major focus will be on checking for chronic wasting disease (CWD) that has hit deer herds in several other states but hasn't been found in Arkansas.

Deer management strategies will be carried out on cooperative public lands - national forests, state forests, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others - along with AGFC and private lands cooperative projects like timber company lands.

Assistance and evaluation will be given to private landowners who ask for it. The AGFC has increased its roster of private land biologists for this segment of the plan, and their work includes small acreages as well as large tracts. The work of the private land biologists is free for landowners.

The current deer hunting zones can be adjusted when needed, the plan specifies. There are 22 deer zones at present, numbered 1 through 17 with some As and Bs included. The number of days for deer hunting, bag limits, buck and doe restrictions and antler details vary by zone according to strategies for reaching and maintaining the resource goals.

Research on Arkansas' deer is part of the Resource segment. The plan spells it out as "conduct scientific research to support deer management techniques."

A major study is mentioned in the deer plan, and this is on Choctaw Island, an 8,300-acre wildlife management area in Desha County just across a levee from Arkansas City on the Mississippi River. It was bought by the AGFC in 2001, one of several major acquisitions that have resulted from the Conservation Sales Tax which went into effect in 1997.

Close monitoring of deer is being conducted on Choctaw Island, including the netting of deer and fitting them with radio collars for tracking of movements and of mortality. The University of Arkansas at Monticello has faculty and students involved in this cooperative project with AGFC.

The complete deer management plan can be found online at: http://www.agfc.com/hunting/deer/deerplan_revision.aspx

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