A series of 14 public forums to gather feedback on Missouri’s white-tailed deer management plan kicked off Monday afternoon at Rolla Junior High School.

A series of 14 public forums to gather feedback on Missouri’s white-tailed deer management plan kicked off Monday afternoon at Rolla Junior High School.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is holding the informal open houses across the state to get comments from hunters, landowners and wildlife enthusiasts as department officials work toward a strategic direction for deer management in the state over the next 10 years.
Previous planning efforts have not been as comprehensive and goal-focused as this draft plan.
Deer biologist Emily Flinn said the open-house events are designed to gather feedback and the plan can be adjusted as necessary.
While deer regulations changes have already been approved for 2014, this draft plan will look at the 10-year-span starting in 2015, Flinn said.
The draft plan plan outlines many activities that are already occurring and proposes new concepts to be evaluated during implementation of the plan.
It does not outline operational details such as proposed regulation changes, research proposals, and work plan adjustments, of the deer management program.
About 60 people attended the open house Monday, according to Shawn Gruber, outreach and education regional supervisor with the MDC.
They were able to visit booths focusing on the history of deer management in Missouri, the state’s new deer management plan, possible regulation changes, hunter retention and recruitment, public comments received so far and other issues related to deer management. Conservation staff also was on hand to answer questions.
Danny Marshall, and his son Micah, from the Steelville area, attended Monday’s forum as both hunters and landowners. Danny, who used to work for the department, said he feels the MDC does a good job managing the deer population.
Anyone unable to attend can still offer suggestions online at: http://mdc.mo.gov/about-us/public-notices/deer-management-open-houses
A copy of the draft plan also is available online at the above website.
The plan looks at both existing and future challenges, which include but are not limited to managing deer in urban areas public versus private land deer management; changing hunters’ attitudes, preferences and demographics; changing land use practices; and disease threats such as chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The periodic occurrence of hemorrhagic disease (epizootic hemorrhagic disease and blue tongue), and the recent introduction of CWD to Missouri have raised public concerns regarding the short- and long-term impacts of diseases on the health of Missouri’s deer population.
In 2012, more than 517,000 individuals in Missouri possessed some form of a deer hunting permit. Additionally, Missouri deer hunters annually spend more than 7 million days hunting and had total annual expenditures of more than $800 million.
This draft plan outlines four primary goals that incorporate the current priorities for deer management in Missouri:
1) Proactively manage for balanced deer populations below the biological and social carrying capacity within the defined management units at levels acceptable for agriculture, ecosystems, and other impacts consistent with the deer population, and recreational goals; using science-based wildlife management practices:
Objective A – Establish deer population management objectives for each management unit (e.g., county or aggregate of counties in urban areas) with consideration to available habitat, recreational demand, and the potential for deer-related damage.
Objective B – Annually assess and monitor deer populations within each management unit using science-based techniques.
Objective C – Establish effective harvest guidelines for management of deer on both public and private lands within each deer management unit to meet population management goals.
Objective D – Develop or continue programs for localized deer management within a management unit (e.g., conservation areas, cooperatives, communities).
Objective E – Provide flexible and innovative management tools and/or opportunities for communities, hunters, and landowners to achieve localized deer management objectives while meeting overall population management goals.
Objective F – Increase effectiveness and management of deer populations in urban and suburban communities.
Objective G – Determine ecosystem impacts of deer and manage deer populations within levels that ensure maintenance of biologically diverse ecosystems.
2) Provide opportunities for all citizens to enjoy deer-related recreational activities, and promote deer hunting as a socially and culturally important tradition that is the primary tool to achieving the deer population goal:
Objective A – Establish deer hunting season structure and regulations that achieve the deer population management goal and promote hunter participation, recruitment, retention and satisfaction.
Objective B – Continue to promote recreational hunting as the primary tool to manage deer population.
Objective C – Create a simple regulatory system that ensures fair and equitable allocation of hunting opportunities (e.g., seasons, methods, and permits) on private lands.
Objective D – Provide satisfactory hunting opportunities on public lands.
Objective E – Facilitate better deer hunting opportunities on private land.
3) Ensure the maintenance of a healthy deer population, and minimize the threat and impacts of diseases on the deer populations in Missouri:
Objective A – Conduct monitoring of deer herd health and implement surveillance programs for diseases that pose a significant risk to the deer population.
Objective B – Implement policies and regulations to prevent the infection of deer by diseases not currently established in Missouri, and reduce the prevalence of diseases already established.
Objective C – Minimize risks from diseases that impact multiple species, such as wildlife, humans and livestock.
4) Provide information to the public about all aspects of deer biology and management in Missouri, and create opportunities for additional public engagement in the decision making process regarding the management of Missouri’s deer resource:
Objective A – Clearly and effectively communicate deer management strategies to all stakeholders.
Objective B – Ensure stakeholder engagement in deer management decisions and clearly communicate outcomes.
Objective C – Continue to coordinate with partners to provide science-based deer management information and implement educational outreach programs.
Objective D – Continue to value and promote the role of the private landowner and landowner cooperatives in the management of Missouri’s deer herd.