A statewide ban on hunting white and albino deer may again become the law of the land if approved as part of a package of Department of Natural Resources rule changes.
The change was included in the DNR’s Deer Trustee Report Proposed Rule Package, and a series of public hearings on the proposed changes is scheduled for later this month.
The issue came to light last fall when out-of-town hunters shot and killed two white deer near Leland, an unincorporated village west of Sauk Prairie in Sauk County.
Residents who watch and photograph the town’s small population of white deer were outraged at the killings, though state officials said the hunters acted lawfully. They formed a group to convince state lawmakers to reenact a statewide ban on hunting white and albino deer.
There previously was a statewide restriction on the harvesting of white and albino deer until the creation of chronic wasting disease zones. The ban was lifted in those areas in order to contain the spread of the disease. Leland is in one of those zones.
It remains illegal to hunt albino deer in non-CWD zones.
Aside from meeting with state lawmakers, the local white deer advocacy group has introduced the rule change at the spring Conservation Congress. The group has distributed t-shirts, yard signs and photographs. It even entered a float in the Witwen 4th of July Parade with fake white deer and a sign that said “Sauk County’s Hidden Treasure.”
“Many Sauk County residents let me know how vehemently opposed they were to the harvesting of white and albino deer,” said state Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo. “As an avid hunter, I share their concerns. Within Sauk County, residents and responsible hunters understand that white and albino deer are unique and should be protected.”
Clark asked DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to restore the restriction within CWD zones after receiving letters and emails from Sauk County residents upset about the Leland killings. The rule was included as part of a list of recommendations that will go before public hearings later this month.
Stepp said the hearings, which will take place in 35 locations around the state, are an important step in the process of managing the state’s deer heard.
“This is where the rubber meets the road, where the proposals will become reality on the ground,” Stepp said. “This is an important opportunity to help shape the future of deer management in Wisconsin.”
Gov. Scott Walker appointed Texas deer biologist James Kroll to the position of Deer Trustee in 2011 and tasked him with the responsibility of finding fixes for the management of the state’s all-important deer heard.
He issued his report, which includes a series of recommendations regarding season structure and deer management units, to the DNR in June 2012. The agency commissioned four volunteer-based action teams to further evaluate the report’s 62 recommendations.
The action team’s proposal is what now will go before the public.
A team that evaluated the white and albino deer hunting restriction proposal wrote in a report that there is not “sufficient value from the harvest of white deer for CWD management to make it worthwhile to have a different rule on white deer harvest in CWD Zones from the rest of the state.”