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DNR invites deer hunters to share wildlife observations

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on DNR

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ST. PAUL — An online questionnaire will make it easier for Minnesota deer hunters to report wildlife they see during their hunts this year.

“This is a simple, direct way for hunters to share their observations of deer and also broaden our knowledge about other Minnesota species,” said Eric Michel, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) research scientist. “We’re really encouraging hunters to participate in the online questionnaire. The results will help us compare what hunters see to population estimates that are a baseline for managing wildlife.”

Using a mobile device or desktop computer, hunters can enter information on the DNR website about wildlife they see each day of hunting, including deer, turkeys, bears, fishers and other species. They’ll also be able to report specific information about any deer they harvest, including antler size.

Hunters are encouraged to fill out a report after each hunt even if they don’t see any deer that day. The questionnaire will be available when archery deer season begins Saturday, Sept. 19, and remain open through the end of the year.

“Deer hunters tend to be out in the woods sitting still when animals are most active at dusk and dawn. That makes them likely to see undisturbed wildlife,” Michel said.

Data from the observation survey will provide a helpful comparison to the DNR’s population estimates for various species.

The new questionnaire expands on a survey the DNR has made available to bow hunters for the past three years. In that survey, 1,412 bow hunters responded in 2017, 1,691 responded in 2018 and 2,180 responded last year. Now, the DNR is aiming to increase participation by allowing all deer hunters to participate.

The DNR developed the bow hunter survey following a 2016 report from the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor requesting more checks of the population model used to estimate deer populations for each deer permit area. The observation surveys are a way to compare hunter-provided data with DNR population estimates.

“Our deer population model gives us good numbers, but we still like to check those against what hunters and wildlife managers are seeing on the ground. It’s another way to add confidence to the whole system,” Michel said.

The DNR has deer population goals for areas throughout the state and the public has regular opportunities to provide input. Each year, wildlife managers use deer population estimates to figure out what level of deer harvest will move a local deer population closer to goal. The DNR then sets hunting regulations using past hunter participation and success rates, with the aim of harvest at a level that moves the population toward goal.

The DNR will report results from hunters’ observations in an annual research summary online. Previous bow hunter survey results are available on the DNR website.

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