The white-tailed deer is one of Minnesota's most recognizable mammals and the state's most 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.
DNR is asking you to help the department find that balance during the current round of deer population goal setting by soliciting information and input from those who have an interest in deer management. We're seeking a broad cross-section of viewpoints that include hunting, wildlife viewing, natural resource management and local business interests.
So far, new deer population goals have been set in 23 permit areas. The upcoming round will focus on the nine deer permit areas that comprise southeastern Minnesota. Those permit areas are 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349.
If you're interested, just click on the Advisory Team Application tab. If you'd like to receive more information and regular updates on deer management and the goal-setting process, just click on the Deer News tab.