DNR could use nonlethal means to cut down the size of the herd in Minnesota.
December 06, 2006
In his Nov. 12 column, "A hunt for hunters," Dennis Anderson claims that
the only way to control the excessive number of deer in Minnesota is to
increase the number of hunters. I would like to explain the nonhunters'
view of this problem and possible solutions to deer overpopulation.
Overpopulation of deer is no accident. The Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources (DNR) manages the deer herd to produce a surplus for hunters.
Habitat is manipulated to increase food supply for deer. Further, bag
limits are set to induce a biological phenomenon known as "rebound" where
deer birth rates increase in response to a sudden drop in the hunted
population. Changes in management by the DNR would help address this
If reducing the deer population were the primary concern, the DNR would
publicly commit to the concept of immunocontraception or birth control, as
well as publicly finance pilot programs around the state. On the contrary,
the DNR adamantly opposes the concept because fewer deer would be
"harvestable" for hunters if populations declined. Contrary to what
Anderson stated, there have been several promising experiments with birth
control for deer. Further, although hunting is prohibited in national
parks, their deer population is not out of control. Natural factors such as
predators and disease are controlling the deer population.
Deer-car collisions can be greatly reduced by the use of a reflector
system. These reflectors have been used very successfully in nine states,
including Minnesota. Collisions have been reduced by 90 percent in most
instances. Deer damage to vegetation can be prevented by the use of
commercial products that repel deer as well as fencing options, scare
devices and deer-resistant plants.
The fact is that the decline in the hunting tradition is largely
attributable to urbanization and profound changes in attitude toward
killing wildlife. A nationwide survey of youth 13 to 20 years old found
that only 15 percent were very interested in hunting; 52 percent stated
they had no interest in hunting. Many said they don't like killing animals
for sport or recreation. The humane education movement deserves much of the
credit for this. These changing attitudes were also reflected in the
national statistics regarding wildlife activities. According to the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, there are more than five times as many people
watching wildlife rather than hunting it -- 66 million vs. 13 million.
The new reality of the 21st century is that deer hunting is less popular
and the number of deer hunters will continue to decline. The DNR has
nonlethal means, as noted above, to manage the deer population without
reliance on sport hunting.
Howard Goldman, of St. Paul, is a board member of the Minnesota Humane