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Wisconsin to improve deer population research

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

-- A major initiative to improve the Wisconsin DNR’s population estimates for white-tailed deer has been announced.  

“We have heard from hunters who are frustrated and skeptical about the DNR’s deer population estimates," said Secretary Matt Frank. "we are taking action to improve the model for the deer population estimate, perform additional research, involve hunters more extensively in our efforts, and improve communication with the public on survey results and research findings. Many of these actions have been advocated by hunting organizations."

The short and long term actions include:

•  Fully implementing recommendations of the 2006 Sex-Age-Kill model audit, including initiating a buck recovery rate study this year.

•  Partnering with the University of Wisconsin for research and data analysis on buck mortality as well research on fawn mortality, including the roles of predators, habitat and weather, beginning with a study in 2011 in northwest Wisconsin.

•  Evaluation, beginning this month, of an alternative deer population estimation technique known as “distance sampling method” using aircraft. This study is being conducted in areas not previously surveyed with aircraft in both western and eastern Wisconsin. Helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft population surveys will continue in the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone in southern Wisconsin.

•  Working with the Minnesota and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources to share insights from data and research projects in all three states regarding deer population trends and dynamics.
•  Hiring a researcher to review deer-vehicle collision data from salvage operators, Department of Transportation summaries of officer-investigated accidents, and insurance company data to assess usefulness and make recommendations as part of the population estimating process.

•  Invite hunting organizations to provide input and participate in DNR deer research and studies. This would expand efforts to build a data base from hunters’ field observations from deer registration and observations reported on the DNR website.

Frank said the department will continue to work with the legislature regarding other suggestions, including bringing in an independent third party to verify accuracy of data and math used in the preparation of deer population estimates.

He said  the initiative would not have been possible without a significant new investment of over $2 million in federal funds,  through additional federal Pittman-Robertson funds allocated to the Wisconsin this year.“We believe this is a worthwhile investment to improve the long-term management of a sustainable and healthy deer herd for generations to come,” he added.
The presentation was video recorded, and will be available online for viewing on the Wildlife pages at

The document, “Investing in Wisconsin’s Whitetails,” detailing past, present and future deer research and outreach efforts is also available online at

The department will provide information and updates for hunters and observers of deer. The new internet delivery system allows citizens to receive the latest information at home in their email in the form of an alert. GovDelivery users can subscribe and unsubscribe and select from a list of subjects that they wish to monitor. Click on:

Hunters and others interested in deer can also attend a series of deer management unit information meetings scheduled around the state March 10-25. More information about those is at
Meeting locations and times are also available at

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