Commission seeks to limit deer in Pine Ridge

March 8, 2002 Omaha World-Herald by Larry Porter
A 4 1/2-month deer season in northern Sioux County will be proposed to Nebraska Game and Parks commissioners during their March 15 meeting.

If approved, the plan will give unlimited bonus tags to hunters, who will be able to kill antlerless deer from Oct. 28 through March 15.

The purpose is to reduce the deer numbers in that area of the Pine Ridge by half over the next five years, said Bruce Morrison, assistant chief of the commission's wildlife division. Biologists estimate that between 3,500 and 4,000 deer are in that area, Morrison said. About 65 percent are whitetails, and 35 percent are mule deer.

The deer population will be reduced in an effort to contain an outbreak of chronic wasting disease in the area.

Commission workers have killed 117 wild deer within a 12-mile radius of a ranch where CWD has been found in captive whitetail deer and elk herds.

CWD has been found in nine wild deer. Of the nine positive deer, seven were killed within five miles of the ranch. The remaining two were killed from five to seven miles from the ranch.

In addition, a total of 151 captive whitetails have been killed. Of the 126 that have been tested so far, 60 had CWD - a rate of nearly 48 percent.

Commission staff members unveiled their plan to combat CWD in the area during a meeting Wednesday night at Fort Robinson State Park that was attended by more than 170 people.

"The majority didn't say much," Morrison said. "A few of them were concerned about trespassing during the lengthy season and the effect it would have on their ranching and farming operations. They had heard a rumor - which is not true - that we were going to make it legal for hunters to trespass on their land.

"Some of the landowners felt they would have to spend all their time patrolling their land instead of doing their jobs," Morrison continued. "Our law enforcement officers will do all they can to help out during the extended season. The commission will work with the landowners to address the trespass issue."

Another CWD discovery in the general area three weeks ago has prompted wildlife agencies from Nebraska and South Dakota to kill 184 deer along the border. A CWD test on a whitetail deer killed by a hunter in South Dakota last fall tested positive, giving South Dakota its first confirmed case of CWD in a wild deer.

That deer was killed about 45 miles north of the Nebraska border. It was killed about 10 miles from a South Dakota captive facility in which CWD was found a few years ago, Morrison said.

Commission officials have killed 90 deer along the Nebraska side of the border, which is about 15 miles north of the ranch that contains the infected whitetail and elk herds, Morrison said. South Dakota officials have killed 94 deer on their side of the border. Tests will be conducted on all of the deer killed in both states.

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