Deer Management Plan Now Being Implemented

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White-tailed deer are an important natural resource and Georgia’s most popular game species. They provide diverse recreational opportunities and significant economic revenue, but also contribute to a variety of deer-human conflicts. At the core of deer management is the question: how many deer should Georgia have? The answer depends upon objectives for hunting, wildlife viewing, ecological functions, agricultural and property damage and deer-vehicle collisions. State law charges the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) with the management and conservation of all of Georgia’s wildlife resources, including white-tailed deer. In light of that fact, WRD is proud to announce that the guiding document for the next decade, “Georgia’s Deer Management Plan 2005-2014,” is now complete and ready to be implemented.

“The best tool to manage the deer population is through regulated hunting. Deer hunter success has steadily increased to sufficient levels to stabilize the deer herd, but not cause a statewide decline,” says WRD Chief of Game Management Bill Fletcher. “While the overall health of the deer herd is good, there are isolated or localized areas where deer populations are overabundant at levels that frequently exceed social tolerances.”

So, how do you decide how many deer Georgia should have? WRD felt that since the issue of deer management was broad, it was best to initiate the development of a citizen-directed deer management plan that involved multiple levels of public involvement. First, a steering committee of 16 persons was formed representing landowners, small and big game hunters, farmers, university professors and other groups with an interest in how deer are managed in the state. This group originally identified 15 key issues which later were condensed to five conservation-based key issues and five method-based key issues. Conservation issues identified were: 1) hunter access; 2) deer density; 3) deer-vehicle collisions; 4) public/private ownership; and 5) urban and nuisance deer management. Method issues included: 1) dog deer hunting; 2) hunting seasons and bag limits; 3) DNR policies; 4) supplemental feeding and baiting; and 5) wildlife management and hunting techniques.

The steering committee based their final recommendations on the feedback from four subcommittees (based on geographic portions of the state) who used public input and technical information to develop recommendations on all key issues specific to their geographic area. Other input included a total of 17 public meetings held across the state (during August 2004, and January and February 2005), written and e-mailed comments, technical input from WRD biologists and an independent scientific survey of Georgia residents, landowners and hunters conducted by Responsive Management, Inc.

To view a copy of the Georgia Deer Management Plan, visit the WRD website at www.georgiawildlife.com or for more information call 770-761-3044.