DNR to Launch Georgia Deer Management Plan

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How many white-tailed deer should we have in Georgia? The answer to this question varies depending on whom you ask. Management of Georgia’s white-tailed deer herd is a challenging and increasingly controversial topic. Currently, management of regional and statewide deer populations occurs through hunting (85 percent of all hunters pursue this game species) as facilitated and constrained by laws, regulations and hunter access, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wildlife Resources Division (WRD).

However, there are a number of key issues and opportunities directly linked to this resource besides hunting; including wildlife viewing, ecological functions, agricultural damage and deer-car collisions. In an effort to broaden the issue of deer management, WRD is seeking input from both the hunting and non-hunting public to more effectively find solutions that meet the needs of all Georgians.

A recent survey, conducted by Responsive Management, Inc. of Virginia, found some interesting facts, including the following:

General Population

· 45% of the public indicates that they enjoy seeing and having deer around while 38% enjoy seeing deer but worry about the problems they cause. Only 7% of the public regards deer as a nuisance.

· 82% of the public support legal deer hunting in Georgia.

· Those who are supportive of increasing the number of deer maintain that support, even if it means more damage to gardens and landscaping or even automobile accidents, but not if it means poorer quality habitat for other wildlife or poorer overall health of the deer herd.

· Those who support a decrease in the number of deer most often site deer-car collisions as the reason why.

· 61% of the public indicate that deer are not a road hazard or a minor road hazard, compared to 28% who feel that deer are a major road hazard.

· 79% of the public supports efforts to control deer in urban and suburban areas. The public is more supportive of controlling deer in these areas though hunting than through the use of professional sharpshooters or other methods.

Hunters

· 72% of the hunters feel that the deer population is properly managed in Georgia.

· 81% of hunters indicate that they are satisfied with the current deer season structure.

· 75% of hunters rate Georgia’s current deer management program as excellent or good.

· 45% of hunters think it should be legal to hunt white-tailed deer by attracting them using bait like corn as an attractant, compared to 29% of the general public who support this practice.

Landowners

· 51% of landowners feel that the deer population is properly managed in Georgia.

· 96% of landowners support legal deer hunting in Georgia.

· 61% of landowners rate Georgia’s current deer management program as excellent or good.

· 70% of landowners think that there are more deer now compared to five years ago.

· 45% of landowners experienced damage caused by deer in the last 12 months.

DNR will host five statewide, highly interactive, open house-style public meetings, scheduled for early August, allowing all members of the public an opportunity to provide input regarding this issue. During these meetings, citizens will be able to provide insight on specific key issues. Some of these issues include: deer/car collisions, baiting and supplemental feeding, education/outreach and deer population density. Biologists and others will be available to answer questions about the key issues and provide background information if needed. The open house schedule is as follows:

Aug. 2, 2004/3 p.m. – 8 p.m./Ellijay-Gilmer County/Gilmer Co. High School/497 Bobcat Trail

Aug. 2, 2004/3 p.m. – 8 p.m./Jesup-Wayne County/Altamaha TechPoly Technical Center/1777 W. Cherry Street

Aug. 3, 2004/3 p.m. – 8 p.m./Dacula-Gwinnett County/Hebron Baptist Church/Gymnasium A/202 Hebron Church Road

Aug. 3, 2004/3 p.m. – 8 p.m./Macon-Bibb County/Holiday Inn-Macon Conference Center/3590 Riverside Drive

Aug. 10, 2004/3 p.m. – 8 p.m./Albany-Dougherty County/Albany Technical College/Technology Building/Room 521/1704 South Slappey Boulevard

The public should feel free to come at any time during the open house meetings. For those unable to attend the public meetings, written comments sent by mail or through the WRD website will be accepted until August 13, 2004. Written comments may be sent to: WRD Game Management/Attn: John Bowers/2109 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE/Social Circle, GA 30025. Comments also may be e-mailed through the WRD website – visit www.georgiawildlife.com, select General Info or Hunting and then click on Deer Management Plan Comments.