The Illinois department of natural resources has slashed the number of counties eligible for late season deer hunts and cut the amount of firearms hunting permits by more than 4 percent after scientists concluded the impact of a cold winter and other deer-borne diseases held the population down.

The state released its latest 2014-2015 deer season regulations July 22, closing 20 additional counties to the late-winter antlerless only season and cutting the number of firearms hunting permits by more than 11,000. In all, 52 counties will be closed to the late-winter antlerless season.

Illinois DNR makes deer season adjustments"Solid science is the basis of our deer program," said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller."These changes reflect our commitment to professional management of the state’s deer population to provide recreational opportunity while being mindful of public safety and the rights of property owners."

Officials said the reduced number of automobile accidents involving deer and the impact of hemmorhagic disease outbreaks in some areas prompted the cuts.

Deer-vehicle accidents are an accurate barometer of Illinois deer population trends," the Illinois DNR said in a release. "Poor weather conditions during the firearm seasons probably affected both hunter participation and success rates, and recent hemorrhagic disease outbreaks likely had at least localized effects, as well."

The deer-vehicle accident rate in 2013 was similar to 2012, even though deer harvest numbers declined from 180,811 in 2012 to 148,614 in 2013, the DNR said. State scientists added that when counties' deer-vehicle accident rates are low in two consecutive seasons, they are removed from the late-winter season.

"In order to be effective, Illinois' deer management program adapts as new information is learned, as problems arise, or as public perception and tolerance changes," Illinois DNR officials said.

Hunters can find out more information at the Illinois DNR website, including the counties that have been dropped from the late-season hunt.