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26
Posted on Mon, Jul. 26, 2004

Deer numbers in Georgia may need to be thinned

Associated Press


SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. - A new state management plan could lead to deer numbers being thinned in some areas.

State officials are looking at a number of options for managing the size of Georgia's deer herd, starting with determining what is the right number of deer, said Todd Holbrook, chief of game management for the Department of Natural Resource's Wildlife Resources Division.

Deer-related problems have arisen as urban sprawl has pushed more people into forested areas where deer live, Holbrook said. That has led to an increase in the number of vehicle collisions with deer, he said.

In 2002, seven people died in deer-vehicle collisions, Holbrook said.

Deer also cause economic damage by feeding on gardens and crops in some parts of Georgia, Holbrook said. And in some areas, such as Red Top Mountain State Park, large deer populations have caused ecological damage though overgrazing.

"Too many deer means impact on habitat, and that damage can be semi-permanent," Holbrook said.

But before any decisions are made on what to do about the deer, officials want to hear from the public in a series of public hearings in August. In the past, deer management plans had been based mainly on input from hunters. Now the state is seeking broader input, Holbrook said.

Among the issues the public hearings will address is whether sharpshooters or recreational hunting should be used to reduce the deer population.

Hunting is the main method for managing the state's deer population, Holbrook said. Last year, about 484,000 deer were harvested out of an overall population of 1.2 million, he said. And DNR polls earlier this year showed support for expanding hunting opportunities in state parks, where it is currently prohibited, Holbrook said.

Department of Natural Resources planners hope to have a proposed new management plan ready when the Legislature reconvenes in January, Holbrook said.

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Information from: Athens Banner-Herald, http://www.onlineathens.com

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