KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri wildlife officials are considering more restrictions in whitetail deer hunting to reverse a continuing decline in the deer population, caused mostly by an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease and liberal hunting regulations.
The Missouri Department of Conservation reports hunters took 251,924 whitetail deer during last season, the lowest total in a decade. In response, the state limited hunters in some counties to only one deer, rather than an unlimited number, during firearms season in the spring. And public hearing were held this summer on further proposed restrictions, The Kansas City Star reported.
“We received a lot of feedback after the deer season that something had to be done,” said Jason Sumners, a deer biologist for the Department of Conservation. “We agreed. But that feedback wasn’t the only reason we made changes. From a biological standpoint, we feel that regulation changes will help rebuild our deer herd.”
But Sumners said he didn’t expect the population to significantly rebound quickly.
“Typically, it takes several years for a deer herd to recover,” he said.
Kansas is also dealing with a declining population but wildlife officials say the numbers in that state aren’t down as sharply as Missouri’s.
“A combination of three years of drought, land coming out of CRP (the federal Conservation Reserve Program that compensates landowners for idling marginal crop land), and some outbreak of hemorrhagic disease has had an effect,” said Lloyd Fox, deer biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “Our deer numbers are down, but not drastically.”
Fox said the state has reduced the number of days in some areas during extended hunting seasons, with the season reduced by as much as eight days in some regions.
In Missouri, the problem began in the early 2000s, when deer populations exploded in some parts of the state, particularly in the north, prompting wildlife managers to take the limits off antlerless deer during the firearms season. That helped until 2012, when a severe outbreak of hemorrhagic disease hit parts of the state. Some regions escaped the problems but some areas saw their deer population decline 20 percent or more, wildlife officials said.
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