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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

National expert says Wisconsin DNR is making progress in deer management

Deer management expert James Kroll shared his 10-year deer management assessment at August 10 Wisconsin Natural Resources Board meeting.
Screenshot taken by Susan Bence
Deer management expert James Kroll shared his 10-year deer management assessment on Aug. 10 during the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board meeting.

A national wildlife expert who previously offered suggestions on Wisconsin’s deer management program returned to the state virtually Wednesday to speak before the Natural Resources Board.

James Kroll, professor emeritus of Forest Wildlife Management at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas wore his credentials on his shirt. He had Dr. Deer embroidered on it.

Ten years ago then Gov. Scott Walker hired Kroll. “When I was called by Gov. Walker, they used the term “deer czar” I said I don’t want to be a czar,” recalls Kroll.

As he delivered his lengthy 10-year overview, it was clear Kroll is dead-serious about what he calls a three-legged stool approach to deer management made up of people's habitat and population.

“Deer management is site specific, and how big that site is builds up from the landowner to the county and on up. And that follows that the role of the biologist should be to assess the goals of the people, what do the people want and to provide assistance to achieve those goals,” Kroll maintains

Kroll says the DNR has taken steps in the right direction, including creating county-by-county deer advisory councils, but more work needs to be done, including research. "We need some really well-planned, targeted research on predation, objective research projects, and we need to start looking at it, as I said, as a predator suite and really quantify the impacts and when those impacts are on the deer population," Kroll says.

READ How Wisconsinites Are Navigating Deer Hunting During A Pandemic

Board member Marcy West brought up an ongoing concern of chronic wasting disease. Outbreaks have erupted in her region.

“For my area CWD is a high priority issue and we do have some spark areas. And if I’m reading Texas’ website correctly you have mandatory testing. Have you found that to be effective addressing the CWD issue,” West asks.

Kroll’s response was a simple, “No.”

He says CWD can be controlled, not eradicated.

West pressed further, “Well that leads me to your point about managing for harvest, rather than population. In our area, you can set a quota but we don’t have enough hunters or enough interest to harvest to that point,” West says.

Kroll says that challenge is not unique to Wisconsin.“That’s a problem everywhere. We’ve got to recruit more hunters, we definitely gotta recruit more hunters and we’re not doing anything to do it,” he says.

While Kroll’s assessment might have signaled the end of his assignment, board member Fred Prehn asked Kroll for additional input.

“For concrete 10-year points to target to perfect it, to tweak the system to be even better than it already is,” Prehn says.

Kroll agrees, but there was no discussion about what his input would look like and how it might assist the DNR in managing the species in an ever-changing environment.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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