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State's deer czar criticizes DNR

Wisconsin's "deer czar" says the DNR spends too much time miscalculating the size of the deer herd, and not enough time dealing with habitat and people.

James Kroll issued his preliminary report yesterday, after Governor Scott Walker hired him last fall to review the DNR's deer management efforts. Kroll, a deer researcher from Texas, said landowners and hunters have a quote, "intense dissatisfaction" with the agency - and a lot of it stems from what he called a failed effort to control chronic wasting disease in the last decade.

Kroll said the program regarded deer in the disease zones as pests rather than a major big game animal. He also said the DNR's deer herd estimates are indefensible, and they're based on procedures that are decades old.

He said officials have not done adequate studies on wolves and how they fit into the state's eco-system. DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang said his agency has known about some of the issues in the report for a long time and are already addressing them.

Two years ago, officials started a $2 million effort to improve the deer population estimates, and determine the impact by predators. It has also expanded a computer list of hunter observations, and improved communications with the public.

The DNR ended the Earn-a-Buck program that required hunters to kill a doe before taking a buck. Town hall meetings are being set throughout Wisconsin during April to discuss Kroll's preliminary report. A final report is expected in June.