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From: www.sooeveningnews.com

DNR outlines deer population goals
By SCOTT BRAND/The Evening News SAULT STE. MARIE - In a perfect world, there would be a big buck behind every tree; the does would be fat and hearty producing a pair of healthy fawns each spring. The deer would have plenty to eat throughout the year without affecting forest regeneration or farm crops.
Oh yeah, the deer would also avoid the roadways - totally eliminating car-deer collisions, and the wolves, coyotes, bobcats, bears and occasional cougar could feast without having any impact on the deer herd.
But, the world ain't perfect.
With that in mind, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources outlined its population goals for the next five years to a packed house on the campus of Lake Superior State University.
“We need to put our expectations in a realistic framework,” said Eastern Upper Peninsula Wildlife Supervisor Rex Ainslie, addressing more than 100 sportsmen who filled the auditorium. “In a nutshell, our goal (in managing the local herd numbers) is instead of way up and way down, way up and way down is to manage it within a framework.”
He also added that trying to keep deer numbers at or near the carrying capacity of the land amounts to walking a tightrope.
Using the phrase “dynamic equilibrium,” Ainslie said the department is looking to maintain overall herd numbers at a level which essentially allows for the most consistent hunting opportunities. If the plan can be implemented, the banner years of the late 1980s and early 1990s would most likely not be repeated. But, on the other hand, the tremendous population crashes following hard winters would also be avoided.
“That's going to stabilize,” said Ainslie.
The deer herd for DMU 017 - which is roughly everything east of I-75 up through Rudyard into Brimley - was estimated at 15,400 according to DNR documents. The outlined goal proposal would bring that up by 17 percent - to somewhere between 16,000 to 20,000 deer for the unit.
“We realize we could use a few more deer in DMU 017,” he said, noting crop damage and forest regeneration complaints have been virtually non-existent in recent years. Other trends such as car/deer accidents and hunter success rates also have shown a decline. “Throw all these things together and we can bump it up a bit.”
Ainslie further explained that even if these goals are met, it does not mean that deer will increase everywhere. Certain areas like agricultural lands will likely hold more deer, while vast stretches of mature forest generally hold far fewer animals due to food availability.
“Distribution is never going to be equal,” Ainslie observed.
The state's largest proposed increase comes in the form of a 150 percent target established for DMU 048. This unit encompasses northern Chippewa, most of Luce and portions of Schoolcraft and Alger counties. There were just under 11,000 deer estimated to be living in this vast region in 2005, according to the DNR.
“That's probably unrealistic,” said Ainslie, noting that winter severity continues to play a major role along the southern shore of Lake Superior.
The DNR estimated there were 24,000 deer in DMU 049 - which encompasses the southwest portion of Chippewa County and all of Mackinac County west of I-75 over into Schoolcraft County. Under the 2006-2010 proposed goals, there would be no change in this district over the next five years.
Finally, Drummond Island stands alone as DMU 117 - where an estimated 3,100 deer resided in 2005. The DNR is proposing a reduction in this herd by 15 percent over the next five years.
Big Game Research Specialist Brent Rudolph said there are an estimated 1.7 million deer scattered throughout the state of Michigan being pursued by 750,000 hunters. The overall success rate for the state, according to the most recent figures, was approximately 42 percent.
Following the presentation, Rudolph and Ainslie answered a multitude of questions from those in the audience during the public comment period of the hearing. Questions and comments included habitat, antlerless permits, quality deer management, predation, redistricting DMUs, reproduction rates, random sampling, and deer herd estimates, among others.
The DNR is conducting similar meetings throughout the state. For those who missed Thursday's session, the last local meeting to outline population goals will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Newberry High School.
The Natural Resources Commission is expected to vote on this population goal proposal at its February meeting.
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