Game & Parks Responds to Deer Disease with Permit Reductions

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Fewer sightings, fewer tracks, and fewer roadside remains.

While less vehicle-deer accidents are a good thing, the lack of deer in some areas has wildlife officials and hunters worried.

"Virtually every part of the state has seen at least some level of this disease," says Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Wildlife Division Administrator Scott Taylor.

The disease that Taylor is referring to is Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), a viral disease that hit deer, and even some livestock, hard in Nebraska this year.

By mid-October NGPC had received reports of nearly 6,000 dead deer, prompting the commission to take a rare step and reduce antlerless permit numbers as much as 50% in some areas just ahead of deer season.

"We did have time to make a few changes during this deer season that we thought were logistically feasible and supported by the data we've collected so far," says Taylor.

Game and Parks officials say it's hard to manage permits when a disease kill is as highly localized as EHD has been, but some hunters say that more permit reductions are needed this year, or they fear the effects could be long term.

Barry Johnson of North Platte was one hunter who told the commission that areas where the disease hit hard left few deer standing.

"Everybody wants to shoot a trophy buck, but if we don't have fawns available we don't have bucks, so we need to look at the overall program, what we're managing," says Johnson.

But Taylor says they only control permit units, and says they're counting on landowners and hunters to do what's best for management at the site-level.

"Our best information with regard to changes in deer abundance come from our deer harvest data, particularly the harvest data that we get during the November firearm season," says Taylor.

Taylor says that after they get that data they can see if more changes are necessary next year. He says they're also hoping landowners and hunters will attend public meetings following firearm season to report what they've seen in terms of population abundance.