Another reactionary move by the WI Gov: put politics in wildlife

Deer in Eagle River, Wisconsin

How many deer are too many? / Herbert Wagner

WI governor Jim Doyle gets most of his negative publicity by union-busting, but he’s been pissing off conservationists, too. He vetoed a bill that would have taken the politics out of the state’s wildlife management, Milwuakee Journal-Sentinel columnist Paul Smith explained in a great column last week.

Wisconsin is like many states where wildlife management is supposed to be done by trained biologists, not politicians looking for a gimmick to get elected. And, like many states, the WI Department of Natural Resources has been at times distracted by political considerations. WI succeeded more than most in keeping its mission straight, Smith explained–until 1995 when Gov. Tommy Thompson started making political appointments to the board.

Since then it’s been popular to run wildlife to please hunters. They’re informed and motivated voters. And the suburban mom, who might object to overstocking the state with deer because it could lead to more car crashes, is not part of the discussion. In 2007 hunter Herbert Wagner complained on his site that WI DNR was mismanaging the deer. He wants to bring the population in check–even if it means a more open season and predators.

Voters don’t like that system and last year the legislature passed a law so that the board elects its own head. Doyle “vetoed the bill, betraying his campaign promises,” Smith says.

You may be seeing the politicalization of the WI DNR in plans to permanently end the earn-a-buck program. The only way to put a brake on out-of-control deer populations (aside from contraceptives) is to target females. If you just shoot males with pretty antlers, it’s like pushing on the gas pedal instead. So WI made hunters kill an antlerless deer first. But hunters who want there to be overflowing deer don’t like that measure at all.

Biologists already predict a surge in deer numbers and an expansion of the area with chronic wasting disease. The state wants 800,000 deer and now has 50% more than that, up 18% since 2009 when the earn-a-buck program was suspended. In 2005 Wisconsin suffered 17,555 deer-vehicle collisions, which caused $236.4 million in property damage and 12 human deaths, Wagner says. It would be nice to have a governor that thinks about that instead of getting re-elected.



deer Where to SEE DEER (and anteloope and reindeer)


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