Minnesota DNR Makes Big Request From Hunters to Help Manage Deer Population

by Megan Molseed
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One Department of Natural Resources (DNR) branch is coming up with plans to help utilize a valuable on-the-ground resource when collecting data on the deer population in the area. Officials know well that hunters spend hours upon hours in the woods waiting for their prizes to make themselves known. Sometimes, these hunters even remain in the woods for days as they patiently wait for the animals to emerge.

So, the DNR officials have come up with a plan to utilize the valuable data these outdoorsmen are sure to be observing while on the hunt. The program asks the hunters to log the hours they are spending in the woods and the deer they observe during this time. The survey includes requests that the hunters detail the sex of the animals and whether they are adults or fawns. According to officials, the data would go a long way in helping the DNR validate population trends over a period of time. But, only if enough hunters participate in the program.

“This allows hunters to become actively involved in deer management in Minnesota,” says Eric Michel, one of the deer project leaders of the Minnesota-based program. Michel adds that the survey will also ask the hunters for observations while out in the area.

“Information about wild turkeys, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, gray wolves, fishers, grey fox, and badgers,” Michel explains.

“We’re collecting that information to help us get a better understanding of the distribution of those species across the state,” he adds.

Using “Citizen Science” Helps Collect Regular In-Field Data On Deer Population Throughout The State

Michel notes that this “citizen science” technique of working with hunters in the field allows the officials a “much further reach” than they would have otherwise.

“Obviously, we can’t be in the field across the state all the time,” he explains.

“So tapping into this resource with our hunters allows us to obtain so much more data from a much larger spread across the state,” Michel continues. “It’s something that we’re trying to figure out how to really capitalize on.”

Iowa Has One Of The Longest Running Hunter Data Collection Programs

This program follows the same idea implemented in a hunter data collection program that has seen massive success in Iowa. In this program, state DNR officials select 9,000 archery hunters for the survey notes Iowa DNR wildlife biometrician, Tyler Harms.

“Of those 9,000 hunters, we typically get between 2,000 and 2,500 surveys back,” Harms reveals. “Which is about a 25 percent response rate on average.”

Harms adds that the program gets about 70,000 and 90,000 observation hours in the woods each year through this program. A “ massive amount of data that we can use to then inform population trends,” Harms says.

“If we were to have our staff complete this survey, we estimate it would cost about $2.5 million per year to get that much observation time in the field,” the official continues. “And currently the survey costs us about $15,000 to implement.”

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