Mule deer and other wild deer herd numbers are declining, and it's putting hunters at odds with wildlife officials. According to an article in USA Today, biologists and environmentalists disagree with sportsmen over the role of predator species in the decline — and if they should be killed for that role.
One side of the argument says targeted hunting programs are the answer to the problem; the other side blames loss of natural habitat (for both predators and deer) and wildfires. At the center of the debate is Nevada, where mule deer numbers have declined more than 50 percent since 1988. Hunting groups are petitioning the Nevada Wildlife Commission "to approve three predator-control projects," according to the article, while state wildlife officials refuse to proceed with these plans.
The article quotes Nevada's mule deer specialist Tony Wasley as saying, "all the predator control in the world won't result in any benefit," because there is a lack of habitat for wildlife as humans encroach upon their former turf.
Other western states have seen their mule deer population decrease by half since the '80s, and the article looks to Nevada Wildlife Commission chair Gerald Lent, who says predators are behind the decline and need to be addressed.
Still other wildlife supporters worry about the "crashing" populations of predators that will come from year-round hunting. According to USA Today, the matter is a "white hot" argument nationwide with no easy or forthcoming solution.