Annual meeting discusses deer herd health and futures

Annual meeting discusses deer herd health and futures

MARQUETTE — Every year, the east and the west side of the UP come together for an important meeting to talk about what can be done to preserve and improve the area’s natural resources.

There are two DNR Advisory Councils in the UP, one on each side of the peninsula. They come together each year to talk about wildlife, natural resources and a number of other topics.

This year, Chronic Wasting Disease was a big item on the agenda. CWD is a neurological disorder created by a mutated protein, similar to mad cow disease.

“There’s no shelf life on this stuff so a deer could deposit this prion in an area where folks are baiting and feeding now, and ten years down the road another could come in and ingest that prion and get sick. So, what we’re looking at is a long term, not a short term, but a long term collapse of our deer herd and really the collapse of the UP tradition and way of life,” said Terry Minzey, UP Regional Wildlife Supervisor.

The disease hasn’t been spotted in the UP, yet, but the DNR is taking steps to make sure it doesn’t. They’ll be monitoring the counties bordering Wisconsin, where it has been seen, to make sure it doesn’t cross over.

Another important topic was a review of how this past deer-hunting season went. The Midwest has been hit with three hard winters, so buck counts were pretty low.

“When we have those difficult winter conditions, those deep snows and the snow on the ground for a long time during the winter, that’s difficult on the deer herd. It’s going to affect both the survival of deer through the winter as well as fawn production and survival recruitment into the population,” said David Jentoft, a Wildlife Biologist

Efforts are being made to revive the population, such as habitat improvement and a limitation on bow hunting licenses.

Fortunately there is some good news. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. The fund sets aside money from oil and natural gas leases and mineral rights for recreation projects.

“It’s a great way that local communities can partner with the state and get a lot of projects done to better their recreation opportunities and their communities, which also enhances tourism and also recreation opportunities,” said John Pepin, Deputy Public Information Officer

Since the fund was started, over a billion dollars has been spent state wide, with over 33 million spent right here in the UP.