Published February 09, 2011, 12:00 AM

ND Game and Fish mismanagement makes deer problems worse

This commentary is intentionally harsh.

By: Delbert Moore, INFORUM

This commentary is intentionally harsh. It is harsh because I hope to finally get the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to engage in public dialogue about deer depredation.

Game and Fish gets its revenue from game licenses, not from taxes. It is therefore in the interest of Game and Fish to maximize game numbers regardless of habitat limitations.

We are now in the third successive winter of severe deer damage to stored feed supplies. (We have been involuntarily feeding more than 200 deer since December. They not only eat and damage stored feed but eat out of our 600 feet of fenceline bunks and are munching on the dwarf lilacs by my door. The total damage for this season is in the thousands of dollars.)

Unfortunately, the sole management plan of Game and Fish for severe winters is for the deer to depend on feed resources of ranchers. If Game and Fish did not depend on these, deer numbers would plummet. We cannot negotiate with Game and Fish; it offers a totally inadequate and unworkable fencing program. If the rancher rejects it, Game and Fish makes us ineligible for any further consideration.

In addition, signing a contract with Game and Fish requires the rancher to allow open hunting on his land for a period of years. Now, we all want the maximum number of deer killed, but we cannot allow free access to every hunter in North Dakota. It is our land, not that of Game and Fish.

A number of things need to be done:

  • Game and Fish is absolutely mismanaging land it owns. It has reduced grazing to about 10 percent of normal and has no cross fencing. This has resulted in a thick mat of old grass, so new grass starts much later in the spring and catches so much snow from early storms that the land is unusable by deer. This policy needs to be changed by more grazing and

    cross fencing.

  • Game and Fish must be required to either prevent depredation or compensate landowners in full. In 1997, Game and Fish provided feed to intercept the deer between its land and ours; this worked quite well and needs to be a major task of Game and Fish.

  • In really severe cases, Game and Fish needs to be required to issue enough deer hunting permits to alleviate pressure on individual ranchers.

    If we allowed our cattle on Game and Fish land, we would be criminally charged and fined. If we did not provide feed for our cattle, we would be convicted for animal abuse.

    The policy of Game and Fish is to do as little as possible because it wants the deer to eat our feed. This policy is immoral at best and, I think, actually criminal.

  • There needs to be an interim study of the entire operaton of Game and Fish, with concentration on the effect on private landowners.

Moore operates a cattle-feeding business near Forbes, N.D.