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Energy & Environment

Wisconsin’s Green Fire discusses deer management challenges, encourages change

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As the 9-day gun deer hunt approaches, Wisconsin’s Green Fire is calling for a reform of the state’s deer management.

Wisconsin’s Green Fire is a non-partisan and independent group that wants to see science-based management of Wisconsin’s natural resources.

It gathered several experts to identify the biggest challenges facing Wisconsin’s deer herds and what it believes to be as possible solutions.

Chronic wasting disease, widespread habitat deterioration cause by deer over-browsing, an inability to control deer herd size on farmlands, and long-term declines in the number of deer hunters are all challenges Wisconsin’s Green Fire has identified for managing the state’s deer population.

The group gathered a panel of experts on each of these topics Wednesday to talk in-depth on each of these issues.

Don Waller is an author, plant ecologist, and conservation biologist who spoke to the cost of having a high-density deer population in the state. He thinks the deer population is approaching the point where its outgrown what the ecosystem can support.

“I think the evidence is accumulating that we are getting to the point where it’s impacting the long-term sustainability of some of the systems deer, and we, rely on,” said Waller.

He points to things like less diversity of plant life, increased Lyme disease, and more deer causing car crashes as a result of the denser population.

“Management has got a crisis on its hands, in fact several crisis’s,” said Waller.

Keith McCaffery said it wasn’t always this way. He points controversy leading up to a 2012 Trustees report that moved deer management away from a science-based approach.

“My hope is that it’s time to take a second look at key elements of the management program as it existed prior to the trustee report,” said McCaffery.

Green Fire makes several recommendations for deer management in its Opportunities Now report.

They include overhauling the state’s Chronic Wasting Disease response plan, establish a long-term strategic conservation plan for deer, and create a 10-year deer conservation re-investment fund to implement the plan.

“Deer conservation is not free. For far too long we’ve neglected to invest in it,” said Sarah Peterson, Green Fire’s science director.

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