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New wildlife biologist discusses deer harvest

CRAWFORD AND VERNON - Over the years, Dave Mathes, DNR Wildlife Biologist for Crawford and Vernon counties, was a trusted go-to person for people with “all-things-wildlife questions or concerns.” Mathes recently retired and his replacement, Dan Gotz, is now on the job, with an office in Viroqua.

At a meeting of the Vernon County Land Conservation Committee on Thursday, Feb. 14. Gotz introduced himself and shared some facts with committee members about the 2018 deer harvest. This resulted in a lively discussion that all agreed, “could be continued at a future meeting.”

“Our population model estimates the deer population two times each year; pre- and post-hunt,” Gotz explained.  “The 2018 post-hunt population estimate for Vernon County was 32 percent greater than the 2017 post-hunt population estimate.  For Crawford County there was a 34 percent increase in post-hunt population estimate.” 

At the meeting, Gotz further enumerated the change in total harvest (bucks, does and fawns) during the nine-day firearm season; Vernon County had a 16 percent increase in the 2018 nine-day harvest, and Crawford County had a 25 percent increase.  

“The 2018 nine-day season was the earliest opener in many years, and an increase in (at least) buck harvest is to be expected when the season opens earlier and coincides more closely with peak rutting activity,” Gotz said. “Also, the snow on the ground and mild temperatures made for great hunting weather this year.”



Committee member Frank Easterday asked Gotz about how many deer had sampled positive for CWD.

“In Crawford County there was one deer that tested positive in 2015, which was the first year that CWD was detected; there was one positive test in 2016; two in 2017; and eight in 2018,” Gotz responded. “In Vernon County, there were three in 2017 which was the first year CWD was detected in the county, and there were eleven in 2018.”

Gotz explained that the DNR in collaboration with the counties and private taxidermists has greatly increased the number of CWD sampling stations in the two counties in 2018.

“In 2018 in Crawford County, there were five self-service kiosks, plus one cooperating taxidermist,” Gotz said. “In Vernon County, there were three kiosks and three taxidermists.”

Gotz shared the rate of participation in CWD sampling in the two counties in 2018: in Vernon County, of the 752 deer sampled out of 8,678 harvested, 8.6 percent were sampled. In Crawford County, there were 395 deer sampled out of 4,938 harvested, which amounted to an eight percent sampling rate.

“I am pleasantly surprised that the sampling rate was this high,” Gotz said.  “Good job, hunters!”

Supervisor Rod Ofte asked if the counties were going to take any special measures to fight CWD such as implementing extra seasons or embarking on a full-scale herd reduction initiative as had been done in Richland County in the past.

“The DNR has handed off setting the structure of the deer hunting season to the County Deer Advisory Councils,” Gotz said. “As the ‘Wildlife Liaison’ to the CDACs, I provide information about harvest data, population estimates, CWD frequency, etc.  The committee members vote on population objectives, how many tags to issue, season structure and so on.”

Upcoming meetings of the CDACs in both counties will consider the information from the 2018 season in setting the structure and goals for the 2019 deer-hunting season.

The Crawford County CDAC will meet on Tuesday, March 12, and Tuesday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m., at the Prairie du Chien Public Library.                           

The Vernon County CDAC will meet Monday, March 11, and Monday, April 15, at 6 p.m., at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center.