State Deer Population at 1.64 Million

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Wisconsin’s white-tailed deer population was approximately 1.64 million animals going into the fall 2004 deer hunting seasons, which was within 4 percent of state wildlife biologist’s predictions of 1.7 million, according to a population estimate based on final deer registration numbers.

Wildlife population ecologists with the state Department of Natural Resources recently completed the population estimate, which is based on harvest numbers as well as age structure and the sex of deer killed from the 2004 deer hunting seasons. The calculations were based on hunters registering 518,630 deer in 2004 – the second highest total harvest in state history and the fourth largest deer season harvest in national history.

Based on the 2004 harvest data, biologists calculated there was a statewide deer population of 1,043,000 following the 2004 hunting seasons. The 1,043,000 puts the herd at 51 percent over the established post hunt population goal of 692,100 deer.

The fall, or pre-hunt, population is a prediction based on the previous year’s population estimate, natural mortality, expected reproduction and average population performance. Biologists estimate pre- and post-hunt populations using deer registration numbers, gender and the number of deer in each age class (1-year olds, 2-year olds, etc.).

Some data, such as the winter severity index -- a measure of herd loss due to severe weather -- must still be collected and analyzed before a prediction of the 2005 fall population is available.

While the 2004 post-hunt population is more than 20 percent over goal in 85 deer management units (DMU) statewide, it is still 6 percent lower than last year. Thirty-four DMUs are within 20 percent of goal.

“Hunters did a good job making inroads on the overpopulation in most regions around the state in 2004,” said Keith Warnke, DNR big game ecologist. “We have taken a very positive step in reducing populations toward the management goal but we need hunters’ continued support and participation paired with an aggressive harvest of antlerless deer this fall to maintain the progress.”

Biologists report that herd population in the Northern Region was lowered to 18 percent over goal, from the previous 29 percent. The Central Forest Region was reduced to 7 percent over goal from 20 percent. Populations were reduced by 5 percent in both the Eastern and Western Farmland Regions where populations are now 65 percent and 56 percent above goal respectively. In the Southern Farmland Region, populations increased 2 percent to 137 percent over goal.