The white-tailed deer is one of Minnesota's most recognizable mammals and is a popular big game animal. It is found in every Minnesota county and adapts well to most surroundings.
At the time of European settlement, white-tailed deer in Minnesota existed throughout the wooded river valleys and woodlands of central and southern Minnesota. In northern Minnesota where the forest habitat was much different than it is today, deer were absent or rare. Moose and woodland caribou were the most abundant members of the deer family.
As European settlement cleared forests for lumber and agriculture, deer habitat quality improved through the creation of new openings. Increased agricultural land conversion eventually reduced habitat quality in many areas and, along with market and subsistence hunting, resulted in deer population declines. By the 1880s, deer were rare in many parts of Minnesota.
Natural resource management and regulated hunting has enabled the population to grow. Today, Minnesota is home to about 1 million white-tailed deer.
Minnesota's deer program has been a success story. Once rare in much of the state, deer populations, along with hunter numbers and deer harvests, have grown tremendously during the past 90 years. Today, deer management is focused on balancing social and ecological factors.
Deer managers set deer density goals based on the broad range of public interest in deer. Deer are capable of achieving high densities so generally are managed at a level of social tolerance rather than managed for the maximum number that habitat can support. This approach involves balancing desires of hunters, wildlife watchers and others who may support higher deer densities with those of farmers, foresters or others who experience conflicts with deer and may favor lower deer densities.
So far, new deer population goals have been set in 23 permit areas. The current round focuses on the nine deer permit areas that comprise southeastern Minnesota. Those permit areas are 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349.
To learn more, just click on the 2104 Goal Setting tab. If you'd like to receive more information and regular updates on deer management and the goal-setting process, you can sign up for email updates.
Documents listed below can help you understand and participate in the goal-setting process:
DNR staff now will work with advisory team members to compile and analyze public public perspectives about current and desired deer populations gathered from public meetings in Lake City and St. Charles as well as 463 responses to the online questionnaire.
Team members were selected from an open call for nominations to represent both the diversity of interests in deer management and for their collective familiarity with individual deer permit areas to be discussed. More than 90 individuals applied to participate on the teams. Specific emphasis was placed on identifying individuals with a personal connection to deer management in the southeast.
Team members include Mark Bauman, Rochester; Cynthie Christensen, Rushford; Ken Fetterly, Spring Valley; Larry Gates, Kellogg; Collin Johnson, St. Charles; Chris Kolbert, St. Charles; Kyle Kolbet, Rochester; Vong Lee, Roseville; Quintin Lohse, Chatfield; Melinda Miller, Stewartville; Anne Morse, Dakota; Mark Popovich, Welch; Ron Rosenthal, Red Wing; Tom Ryan, Byron; Jim Siewert, Lake City; Michael Simons, Cottage Grove; Terry Spaeth, Rochester; Len Strapp, Rushford; Marty Stubstad, Rochester; Mark Timm, Altura; and Jim Vogen, Chatfield.
The team includes archery, firearm and muzzleloader hunters as well as non-hunters; residents and landowners; farmers; orchard owners and operators; land managers; local government staff and volunteers; local business owners; and members of hunting, conservation and agricultural organizations.
While DNR does not support deer feeding because science shows it does not have a significant positive effect on the overall deer population and increases the risk of disease transmission, the department is acting in good faith with the existing purposes of a special account funded by license dollars.
The Legislature established a deer feeding account in 1997, diverting 50 cents from each deer hunting license. In 2003, the Legislature allowed the DNR to use those funds to combat deer diseases. The money has funded bovine tuberculosis responses in northwestern Minnesota and chronic wasting disease responses in southeastern Minnesota.
DNR is developing a deer feeding protocol, in collaboration with Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, to direct the use of those funds. More information will be available soon.
Deer hunters are invited to attend one of a series of listening sessions jointly hosted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.
All listening sessions will be from 7-9 p.m. Meetings are scheduled in:
Online comments also will be accepted on this web page beginning Wednesday, March 19.