During the Southeastern Regional Advisory Council meeting on Oct. 28, proposed changes were announced for the 2004 hunting season concerning mule deer and elk. The meeting was held in the John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources representatives were on hand to make the presentation to the RAC and answer any questions that the public or RAC boardmembers might have. Jim Karpowitz, Big Game Program Coordinator, informed the RAC of the mule deer management plan revisions.
"This five year drought that we are in is the single biggest cause of the decline in deer numbers. This new plan demonstrates a big change in direction," said Karpowitz. "This new plan is a total rewrite of the old plan with several revisions."
There are three goals in the new management plan. The first is population, the second habitat and the third is recreation. Each of the goals includes two objectives with strategies that will enable the goals to be met annually during the course of the five year management plan.
The population management goal is to expand and improve mule deer populations throughout the state within habitat capabilities and in consideration of other lands. Objective number one is that by 2008, to have increased the statewide deer populations by 40,000 deer to a post-season herd size of 320,000. This objective will be met if the state returns to normal precipitation patterns and by implementing the new plan. If precipitation does not return to normal and habitat objectives are not met, it is unlikely the herd will expand beyond the current level of 280,000 deer. Some of the 12 strategies to meet this objective include managing the predators, supporting efforts to reduce highway mortality and managing disease outbreaks.
Objective number two is that by 2008, buck:doe ratios will be achieved according to a three year average at the following levels. For general season public land units, the ratio will be 15-20 bucks per 100 does. For the general season private land units, the ratio will be a minimum of 15 bucks to 100 does. In the limited entry units, the ratio is 25-35 bucks per 100 does and in the premium limited entry units, that ratio is a minimum of 35 bucks for every 100 does. There are six strategies involved in meeting this objective. One of the strategies is to support law enforcement efforts to reduce illegal harvest of bucks.
Conserving and improving mule deer habitat throughout the state with emphasis on critical mule deer ranges is the goal for the habitat section of the plan. The first objective for this goal is to maintain mule deer habitat through the state by protecting existing critical habitats and mitigating for the losses due to human impacts. Acquisition of additional habitat is a key strategy to offset its loss to human encroachment.
The second objective is to improve the quality of forage and vegetation for mule deer on 100,000 acres of critical range. At the present time in the southeast region, the DWR is reseeding two 100 acres parcels of land in Carbon County. These habitat objectives will require close coordination and work between all the involved agencies, including the forest service and the BLM.
The third area of concern in the plan is recreation. The goal is to provide a diversity of high quality hunting and viewing opportunities for mule deer throughout the state. Maintaining a hunting program for mule deer that encourages a variety of quality hunting opportunities while maintaining population objectives is the first objective in the recreation area. The DWR will implement strategies to obtain this objective while continuing to provide three hunts (general season, limited entry and premium limited entry) without negatively effecting deer population objectives.
Objective number two in the recreation area is to increase opportunities for viewing mule deer while educating the public concerning the needs of deer and the importance of habitat. Installing interpretive signs, producing written guides and promoting public tours are a few of the strategies to achieve this objective.
"The DWR will meet these goals every year for the next five years. We will evaluate every year and make the changes necessary to meet the objectives of this plan," said Karpowitz. The southeastern RAC approved the action to accept and support this new management plan.