The public can comment through Oct. 31 on the state wildlife agency’s draft plan to guide management of the state’s mule deer populations.
The plan being developed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife would divide eastern Washington into seven mule deer management zones. These would be based on physiography, mule deer population characteristics and mule deer management, according to a department news release. These zones would be a combination of game management units the agency currently uses for setting hunting seasons and harvest levels. The idea is to make sure management decisions are made at the population level by grouping game management units that share common mule deer populations, vegetative and geographic characteristics, but are not limited by any county or other administrative boundary.
The zones would be the Blue Mountains, Columbia Plateau, East Slope Cascades, East Columbia Gorge, Naches, Northern Rocky Mountains and Okanogan Highlands.
The plan also addresses statewide issues and objectives for mule deer. The plan also explains spending priorities related to mule deer and their habitat, according to a department news release.
Among the plan’s other objectives are maintaining stable mule deer populations for both hunters and wildlife-watchers and developing strategies for reducing damage caused by deer to crops and personal property.
The plan calls for expenditures of about $935,000 for habitat management, population monitoring, research, and public education and outreach.
There are more than 120,000 licensed deer hunters in the state, and the annual harvest of bucks has averaged about 8,000 deer between 2004-14. The report states that mule deer hunting added about $40 million to the economy in 2014.
The draft version of the plan has been through several writing and vetting process steps already, including an internal department review; state, federal and tribal agency review; and executive department review.
As part of the comment process, the department also is holding three open house meetings this month to discuss the plan.
The plan is expected to go to the department’s director for final approval later this year.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
READ IT: The plan is available at wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/mule_deer. An online form for the public to submit comments is available on the webpage.
MEETINGS: After meetings in Ellensburg Oct. 13 and Spokane Valley Oct. 15, there will be a session from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 29 at Red Lion Hotel, 2300 Evergreen Park Drive SW, Olympia.