State

Ill. lawmakers investigate drop in deer numbers

BELLEVILLE – Illinois state lawmakers are getting involved in an effort to find out why the latest deer-hunting season saw such a decline in harvested animals and whether action is needed to increase the deer population.

Members of the Legislature’s downstate caucus have met with Department of Natural Resources managers to discuss the issue, said state Rep. Jerry Costello.

“We’re going to try to do something to increase the deer population,” the Democrat from Smithton told the Belleville News-Democrat. “What we’re trying to do, in conjunction with DNR, is to find a way to realistically manage the deer herd to a number that makes sense.”

The 2013-2014 deer harvest was 148,569. That was a substantial drop from nearly 181,000 the previous season.

“I heard a lot of complaints [from customers] about low deer numbers,” said Monty Hoffarth, manager at Town Hall Archery in Belleville in southwest Illinois. “They were saying it was way down.”

Costello said the DNR told lawmakers the state may have overshot an earlier management goal for bringing down deer overpopulation. The higher numbers were blamed for increased crop damage on farms and highway accidents.

The DNR might now adjust the deer-hunting seasons and regulations to increase deer numbers in some areas, Costello said.

“I would expect a reduction or possibly elimination of the late-season antlerless, and a possible reduction in the unlimited doe-only permits,” he said.

The agency has not yet decided on specific changes while it waits for totals from the Department of Transportation on deer-vehicle collisions, an indicator of population trends, said spokesman Chris Young.

But DNR Director Marc Miller has said the agency will be looking to increase the deer population in some counties.

Biologists say regulations and permit quotas can be adjusted to allow deer population growth in 41 counties, including Washington, Marion, Clinton, Bond, Jefferson and Fayette, the newspaper reported.

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Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com

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