By REGINA GARCIA CANO | Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A state hunting regulatory commission has proposed steep cuts to the number of licenses and tags available for many of South Dakota's deer hunting seasons to counter a shrinking herd caused by harsh winters, disease and habitat loss.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission detailed the proposed changes Thursday. They would affect the East and West Rivers deer hunting seasons, as well as the one in the Black Hills, where no antlerless licenses would be issued for 2014.

“Unfortunately, the stars are aligned against wildlife here,” wildlife program administrator Chad Switzer said. “Deer can't fly south in the winter.”

Other factors affecting the population are the spread of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, which is transmitted by a biting midge, and the transformation of so-called shelterbelts into corn and soybean fields.

Under the proposal, the East River 2014 deer season would see 19,375 any deer tags compared to 21,465 in 2013. But the most drastic cut applies to antlerless deer tags, which would be cut by almost 60 percent. The commission allowed for 29,170 of those tags in 2013, but is proposing only 10,700 for this year.

Resident licenses in the East River would be cut to 26,025 from 33,265 in 2013.

The West River season would have 16,075 any deer tags, a reduction of about 1,700 compared to last year. Antlerless tags, however, would be reduced by 86 percent, bringing the number to 3,885. Only 18,310 resident licenses would be available during this season, a cut of 17 percent.

In the Black Hills season, only single-tag licenses are available. The proposal leaves the season with no antlerless licenses for 2014, but calls for 200 resident any-deer licenses and 3,000 resident whitetail deer licenses.

Custer State Park will again have 10 any-whitetail licenses and 20 antlerless whitetail muzzleloader licenses.

Changes are also planned for the 2014 archery season and in the licensing of youth deer hunters.

Switzer said the changes are expected to last two to three years.

The commission plans on finalizing the proposal during a gathering June 5-6 in Yankton. Public comments are being taken.


Online: South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission: