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Numbers in proposed deer study explained PDF Print E-mail

Letter to the Editor:

I am compelled to write this in an attempt to correct erroneous information your paper published March 5, in Ken Anderson’s article titled “DNR study could close 900 acres to hunting.”

This was followed by a mischaracterization of this study and of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by Kurt Krueger in his “In the Outdoors” column March 12.

Note that I am not in any way affiliated with the DNR. I am a Land O’ Lakes resident and I own and live on a small parcel of wooded land very near the proposed deer browse study site described in Mr. Anderson’s article.

As a retired biologist with a fair amount of formal training in ecological principles, I also initially questioned the rationale of this proposed study and had concerns based upon the information initially presented in Mr. Anderson’s article. However, rather than jump to conclusions, I decided to contact Dr. Bronson, the DNR forest research ecologist named in Mr. Anderson’s original article, to learn more about the specific goals, objectives and planned protocols of this study.

I am grateful that Dr. Bronson promptly returned my call and was more than happy to discuss the proposed study with me. He even invited me to meet with him at his DNR office in Rhinelander, which I did March 18.

The most significant thing I learned which I feel is important for your readership to know is that much of the information, especially regarding deer density numbers in the study enclosures, as reported in Ken Anderson’s original article, and used as a basis for Kurt Krueger’s column, were incorrect and misleading.

For example, the high-density enclosures would contain an appropriate number of deer to represent a density of 40 deer per square mile. In an 80-acre enclosure, this would equal five deer, not 40 deer as reported in Anderson’s original article. The same relationship holds true for the medium- and low-density plots.

It also became clear to me that this will be a highly sophisticated scientific study that is not designed to tell anyone how many deer should be on the landscape. Its purpose is to provide information that will help develop and refine management tools to better able ecologists to manage local deer herds as well as manage forest habitat for the benefit of the health of both. I for one was very impressed with the amount of science and planning behind this study, and the professionalism of the DNR and university folks who are involved.

One lesson that I learned from this is that deer management as well as forest management are not simple, black-and-white issues. The interrelationships are ex­tremely complex, and this world-class study is designed to provide critical information specifically relevant to our local habitats that is necessary for the best management of our world-class deer herd as well as the timber habitat that they live in and depend upon.

I would encourage Mr. Krueger and anyone else who is interested in the science of deer management to view the archived video of a talk titled “The Science of Deer Management” given by Tim Van Deelen and Don Waller, both professors at UW-Madison, at last December’s Minocqua Science on Tap presentation. The archived video can be found on the Web by going to and clicking on “Archived Videos.”

This is fascinating, informative stuff that I think anyone who has an interest in the health and well-being of Wisconsin’s deer herd should know and understand, no matter what side of the fence they may be on.

Rod Sharka

Land O’ Lakes

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 11:28 AM

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