The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 30, 2014

Cross: Focusing on future of Minnesota's deer herd

(Continued)

Those goals were adjusted for some areas of the state in 2012. The result was fewer antlerless permits and subsequently, reduced hunter success.

The DNR will be reassessing population goals now through 2016. Notable is that in addition to relying on public comment, more Population Goal Committees will be formed in other permit areas to reassess deer management goals.

Understandably, hunters want to see more deer in the countryside. But it’s not that simple.

Orchard owners, motorists, insurance companies and farmers frequently hold a different view of just how many deer ought to be calling Minnesota home.

The challenge, explained DNR officials, is balancing the two. Setting deer population goals is as much a social issue as biological.

Deer hunters might be pleased to know that in Permit Area 291, which includes the Mankato area, deer populations were at goal levels last year.

However, depending on where you have hunting access, you might have doubted that. Understandably, deer congregate in the best habitat.

“Permit Area 291 is a bit of a dichotomy when it comes to habitat,” explained DNR area wildlife manager Joe Stangel. “We have some areas that are very good habitat — Swan Lake, along the Minnesota River and its tributaries.”

It’s a different story once you get out of the valleys, and the countryside is dominated by cultivated fields. Permit Area 292 directly to the east, which includes the Owatonna area and lakes region, also was at goal levels in 2013, albeit just barely.

Jeanine Vorland, the area wildlife manager in that area, said that the diverse mix of woodlands, lakes and agriculture are prime habitat, but that the severe winter of 2010-11 on the heels of an unusually successful hunting season has kept the numbers down.

She said that a larger threat to future hunter success in that area may be the increasing urbanization of the countryside that will limit the places to hunt.

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