MDC Explores New Ways of Monitoring Deer Population

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) presented a new research model to its commission Friday in hopes of growing the whitetail deer population and preventing the spread of disease.

The new model, Statistical Population Reconstruction (SPR), will test survival rates, recruitment and movement patterns in an abundance compared to MDC's old method, "County-Specific" Population Modeling.

"It'll tell us whether the population is increasing, decreasing or staying about the same, and that's ultimately our goal," MDC Resource Scientist Jason Sumners said. "It'll help us get a better grasp of what real numbers are out there on the landscape."

Sumners also said SPR will not merely replace the old system, but rather supplement it to find previous errors and help predict future patterns.

The commission and the public received the presentation positively, but some still have concerns.

"The research scientists for the department do a wonderful job. Our concern is just that we just don't have three to five years to implement this plan," Whitetails Unlimited Field Director Dan Vogt said.

Vogt's group is a non-profit conservation organization made for the betterment of whitetail deer and to keep the hunting tradition alive. He said he and his group showed up at the meeting to show MDC their concern for the deer population and see some regulatory change.

"I truthfully think we need to change the mentality of today's hunter," Vogt said. "All they're seeing is overpopulation, and it's time that we educate the public of what's really going on."

He said hunters should use this mindset now because, according to Sumners, it will take at least a year to find indicators from SPR. While research is collected, Vogt said another disease outbreak is also a concern.

"In a normal circumstance, it's three to five years to rebound that population from having an EHD [or hemorrhagic] breakout, and the situation we've had the last couple years, it's been considerably more than that," Vogt said. "That's where the hunters are just trying to voice their concern to do something today."

Sumners said EHD poses more of a threat than a disease like chronic wasting disease (CWD) because its effects are more known and immediate.

"There's ongoing investigation [for a live CWD test], but at this point in time, it has still not been validated for white-tailed deer or elk," Sumners said.

The state's overall deer harvest in 2013 totaled 250,787, which is down from the decade-long average of 293,056.

To visit MDC's website, click here.