Hunters worry Iowa has cut deer numbers too much

February 26, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Hunters in Iowa are concerned about the dwindling deer population and want state officials to take action to replenish the herd.

The state has actively worked since 2003 to reduce the deer numbers which had been increasing rapidly.

A 2008 state report, the latest available, estimated that deer caused $22.1 million in crop damage in Iowa. And insurers say deer cause about $77 million in vehicle damage from car-deer collisions in Iowa annually. That doesn't include medical costs, time lost from work, and other expenses, said Steve Morain, executive director of the Iowa Insurance Institute, which represents the state's large property-casualty insurers.

"I understand that hunters don't want to sit for days without seeing a deer," Morain said, but hunters also don't have to pay for the damage that deer create.

He said if the entire costs of a robust deer population were added to deer licenses, hunters might have a different viewpoint.

Last year the number of harvested deer dropped to 99,406, the eighth year of decline and the first dip below 100,000 since 1995.

Some Iowans believe the state has gone too far, The Des Moines Register reported on Wednesday.

Randy Taylor hunted about three dozen times last year and didn't get a chance to take a shot at a deer because numbers are so low.

"That's incredible, incredible for the state of Iowa," said the 64-year-old, who hunted for nearly four decades, mostly in Jasper, Boone and Allamakee counties. "I'm not the only one."

Sen. Dick Dearden, a Des Moines Democrat who chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, said deer should be allowed to repopulate through the issuance of fewer female deer permits.

"We intentionally reduced the herd. We were seeing too many accidents. But we've gone down too far," he said.

Dearden believes Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is bowing too much to the influence of farm and insurance groups.

Branstad's office said the governor, an avid hunter, "believes the state should have a balanced approach to maintaining the population. The deer population has declined for many reasons, including disease."

The state is close to herd balance in about 80 of 99 counties, said Willie Suchy, the DNR's wildlife research unit leader.

Without hunting, deer numbers would double in three to four years because the animals have plenty of food in Iowa, he said.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, www.desmoinesregister.com