WI Deer herd 'fat and happy,' DNR biologist says


Mar 11, 2001
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Deer herd 'fat and happy,' DNR biologist says

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

By Robert Imrie/Associated Press

A deer herd that's been overpopulated for years has not suffered any stress yet during a record-setting warm Wisconsin winter, a state deer research biologist said Monday.

The deer mostly are "fat and happy," meaning unless the weather pattern changes, more twins and triplets will be born this spring and more will survive, said Tim Van Deelen of the state Department of Natural Resources.

"Frankly, we need fewer deer in the northwoods from an ecological point of view," he said in a telephone interview from Rhinelander.

"When (the deer population) goes down, you give browse-sensitive plants a chance to recover and regenerate. The longer we go without a good winter and that winter effect, I begin worrying about the life of the seed banks that support some of these browse-sensitive plants."

It appears the herd population across the state next fall might easily again total 1.6 million deer, with the new crop of fawns replacing what was killed by hunters and vehicles, Van Deelen said.

Robert Rolley, the DNR's wildlife population ecologist, said it is too early to estimate next fall's deer population because officials are still counting and analyzing figures on the deer killed last year.

Historically, mild winters have a "moderately significant effect" on future populations, but for an agency struggling to reduce the size of the herd, a mild winter doesn't help, Rolley said.

Last fall, archery and gun hunters killed more than 420,000 deer from an estimated 1.65 million deer. In 2000, they killed 615,293 deer, a state and national record, from a herd estimated at 1.7 million.

Last winter was considered severe following a 1990-2000 winter labeled mild, the DNR said.

Norm Poulton of rural Tomahawk said Monday that from what he has seen, this winter has been nothing but kind to deer.

"They are healthy. They are spry. They are all over," he said. "It is a combination of the mild winter and the fact so many people feed here. People who live up here are saying there are way too many deer."

On Sunday in Wausau, where there's virtually no snow, the temperature reached 49 degrees, breaking the previous record of 46 in 1919. Madison got to 55 degrees, shattering the previous record of 48, also in 1919.

The DNR measures the severity of a winter by counting the number of days the temperature drops below zero and there are 18 inches or more of snow on the ground.

It takes 50 or fewer of those days to be considered a mild winter.

So far this winter, there's been eight such days in the northwoods, Van Deelen said. The record low index was 14 in the winter of 1986-87.

There's so little snow across much of northern Wisconsin that deer can easily paw through it to eat what green grasses and ferns still exist, Van Deelen said.

"I was in the woods about a week ago walking around before this last spate of warm weather hit," he said. "They were still moving around freely."

As of Monday, there was no risk of deer starving, he said.

"If I had to guess sitting here in late January, our spring fawn crop is going to be about optimal. Adults for the most part will be putting out twins and you will have a higher number of fawns giving birth," he said.

Bill Mytton, a DNR deer ecologist, said winter has its harshest effect on the herd when it starts early followed by brutal cold in January.

Neither occurred this year so he expects very little impact on the deer.

Van Deelen said the herd could still be stressed enough by winter to affect reproduction, assuming deep snow and harsh cold grip the landscape into April.

"March and April are going to be critical in determining what winter severity looks like," he said. "Severe weather is more severe late in the winter than it is early in the winter."


Feb 8, 2002
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This is is a pretty interesting stand for the DNR to take.  Considering I hunted many hours in Wisconsin this year and I saw far fewer deer than in past years.  I have to disagree with them.  Almost every other hunter I have spoken with saw far fewer deer also.   Harvest number themselves reflect what I believe  -- That the deer heard is far less than the DNR estimates.  I will be limiting the does shot on my property this year to only 1 or 2. (I only harvested 1 doe this year)

On the bright side, I was trying to build a game camera on my own and was running into problems getting everything to work.  Then I stumbled onto your hunting pages.   What a great resource!!!  I built my camera using the Canon PF Date and the Regent PIR. It has worked great.  I put a 5v Reed relay in place of the 12v in the directions.  I am powering it with 6v lantern battery.  The first battery lasted over a month and 3 rolls of film.

Well, what I'm leading up to is that I have to admit there are still a few deer left in wisconsin and I got some great photos of them.  I have them posted under the "Hidden Camera" selection on my msn Community.   Take A Look there are a couple of nice bucks.


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