Smith Letter to DNR Board
To the Natural Resources Board:
This letter is in regards to item #4.B.2.: Ability to Harvest White Deer (Larry Bonde, WCC Chair). I have read Larry’s summary and would like to challenge some of his concerns.
There are several pockets of white deer around the state, but even in these areas, the deer remain very rare and hard to find. The claim that some hunters see only white deer is highly unlikely. One or two white deer, or even 5 or 6, don’t constitute the entire deer population.
The counties that supposedly have “growing populations” of white deer are not named, but I assume it is Wood, Marathon, and Clark Counties in central Wisconsin where hunters have tried in the past to legalize white deer harvest.
I am in contact with several people from the Wood County area and they are not aware of large numbers of white deer. They do treasure the white deer they see occasionally on their property.
One person wrote in an email: I do know that my mail carrier and others keep an eye out for the white deer. We like them – talk about them as something unique and special. I have a friend who hunts my land and he is very protective of these deer as well.
As far as I know, there have been no counts done of any white deer in the state, so no one really knows how many there are. We do know they are extremely popular where they occur and that they still create newspaper and TV headlines when someone makes a sighting–and even bigger headlines when one is shot!
Two recent illegal white deer shootings were big news stories both across Wisconsin and outside the state. Remains of a white buck were found in Douglas County and another white buck was mistakenly shot in Pepin County.
There are no large populations of white deer anywhere in the world. The white coat color is recessive and naturally self-limiting, since brown coat color is dominant. On top of this, there are numerous factors affecting population numbers, so long-term numbers are not predictable.
The proposal to hunt white deer is being promoted by a small group of hunters who are hoping to accomplish their goal through the Wisconsin Conservation Congress and through their local County Deer Advisory Councils (CDACs).
The majority of the residents of Wisconsin are not hunters and would probably not attend these meetings. They are, however, a very large and important group and need to have their voices represented.
According to statistics in the 2011-2016 Wisconsin Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, 57.9% of residents reported that they participated in “watching and photographing wildlife,” while only 22.2% participated in hunting of any type. That’s almost three times as many people who just enjoy viewing wildlife.
In 2014 a WCC proposal asked voters: Would you favor legalizing the harvest of white and albino deer statewide? The proposal was voted down 3939 to 1915. This vote was particularly significant because it showed that even most hunters don’t want to legalize the hunting of white deer!
The Natural Resources Board represents ALL Wisconsin residents, with a mission to conserve resources for ALL the people of the state.
I recommend that the board take a position more compatible with the majority of its residents and recognize the white deer for the phenomenal natural Wisconsin resource they are. It would be far smarter to promote the deer as a tourist attraction and far more profitable.
Boulder Junction receives almost daily calls inquiring about how to see the area’s white deer. People are also paying to participate in organized tours of a white deer population at an abandoned army depot in Seneca, New York. The group, Seneca White Deer, Inc., is even building a Welcome Center to accommodate these visitors.
The consequences of legalizing the harvest of white deer in any area, in any form, need to be considered. Not only would it be very unpopular with the majority of Wisconsin citizens, it could be devastating to the white deer population.
The bottom line in the white deer issue always boils down to this: if a deer is shot, it will benefit only the hunter who kills it. If the deer is allowed to live, it will provide months, and probably years, of viewing enjoyment for area residents. White deer are a valuable state and county asset and need to remain protected.