By: Kurt Hauglie
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP - Officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said they are closely studying the dwindling deer herd in the Upper Peninsula, where some areas have lost more than half of their normal population.
State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, and several DNR officials gathered at a weekend town hall meeting in Houghton County to talk about the declining deer numbers and hear what hunters are experiencing in the field.
With Dianda were John Matonich, chairman of the Natural Resources Commission; J.R. Richardson, NRC member; Dr. Kirk Schott, a representative of state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba; Terry Minzey, U.P. regional manager for the DNR Wildlife Division; and DNR law supervisors Lt. Pete Wright of District 1 and Sgt. Grant Emery of Baraga.
Dianda said he thought it was time to meet with hunters on their concerns about the struggling U.P. deer herd.
"I've been getting a lot of calls about the deer situation," he said.
The U.P. deer population has dropped by 50 to 60
percent in the past three years, Minzey said.
"We had vast areas where we weren't seeing anything," Minzey said.
One DNR deer management unit south of Houghton County had no fawns survive in 2013 and about 90 percent die in 2014, he said. Doe and buck numbers are down as well.
"We're collapsing," he said.
Several factors figure into the decline, including two years of severe winters and predation, Minzey said.
Wolves do kill more deer per wolf, Minzey said, but other animals actually have a larger impact on the deer population, especially fawn numbers.
Coyotes are the main culprits in fawn predation, Minzey said. And while not as numerous as coyotes, bobcats are "the more efficient killer of fawns," he said.
The Upper Peninsula has seen a significant loss of woodlots where deer can yard up in the winter, Richardson said, and he's working on persuading more landowners to keep coniferous woods on their property. Coniferous trees help keep snow levels lower in the woodlots, too.
The DNR's camp survey tends to give a more accurate view of the deer kill each season than registration of killed deer, Minzey said.
"It is really good stuff, and we make our management decisions using that," he said.
Matonich agreed the camp survey works well. "A lot of (hunters) take that very seriously," he said.
Dianda said he appreciated reports from those who attended the meeting.
"We really want to hear what you have to say," he said.