(KMSP) - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issues more licenses for deer hunting than any other animal. But until now, the agency did not have a comprehensive plan to manage the state's deer population.
A year in the making, the plan seeks to keep the state’s deer population remains thriving and disease-free. Currently, about 500,000 Minnesotans go deer hunting each year, leaving an economic impact of $500 million.
Hunters are among the groups that had a big say in shaping the plan, which outlines how the DNR will manage the state's deer population for the next 10 years.
“We’ve long managed deer, set hunting seasons to meet population goals, and we do that at a very localized area. People are interested in sort of a statewide value,” said Leslie McInenly with the DNR.
According to McInenly, that value - 200,000 - is a sweet spot but not a hard limit.
“Really, on an annual basis, we look at our population data. We monitor deer population and we manage to either increase or decrease deer numbers at a local level,” she said.
The plan also looks at ways to maintain healthy habitats for deer and manage disease within the population, a key priority for the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.
“Also looking at the big critical issue like chronic wasting disease, which fortunately is not been really big in Minnesota. We have it, but if that were to take off, that would be a huge problem,” said Craig Engwall of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.
Engwall said the plan isn't perfect, but it's a big start.
“We’ll see how it goes. Implementation is the key, so there’s some laudable goes in there, and we’ll take it from there," Engwall said.
The DNR really wants the public to be involved with this plan as it evolves. It encourages people to reach out to their local wildlife managers and plans a series of open houses across the state to discuss the plan next month.