GF&P's wildlife management taking new tack after review
PIERRE -- The state Division of Wildlife is becoming a different operation since the outside management review ordered by the governor was delivered a year ago.
Two management plans for deer and elk are in the works. The elk plan will be finished by December and the deer plan will be completed in 2015.
The division's big-game biologists and regional managers will be tapping the expertise of a University of Montana specialist, Paul Lukacs, to develop a computer database system for deer population work.
That project will start June 1, 2014, and run through June 30, 2016. One purpose is to establish data analysis units that will be regional and larger than the current management units used for setting license numbers for deer.
The new units would be based on factors such as habitat, precipitation, severity of winter and drought, and current data on deer management and research, according to a report presented last week to the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
"We have very talented staff but we're not experts in everything," Chad Switzer, a division official, told the commission Friday.
Aerial surveys are used for estimating elk population in the Black Hills but deer numbers can't be reliably gauged throughout South Dakota in the same way.
"This is going to be instrumental in that process," biologist Andy Lindbloom said about the deer data tracking. "Each species, we have a different suite of surveys to assess the population."
Meanwhile the division plans to deliver by July of this year a list of alternative season structures to be considered in comparison to the current system by the commission.
According to the planning summary, the goal is to increase the likelihood that hunters will draw the deer licenses they want and the licenses will be available "on a fair and equitable basis."
The changes, if any, wouldn't happen in any significant way for the 2014 deer seasons. The 2014 seasons will be recommended to the commissioners during their May 1-2 meeting at Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park.
At the same time the division is looking to increase deer populations in various places and provide more opportunities for hunters, according to Switzer.
"It's pretty complex," he said. "Deer management is very complex."
One of the methods is further development of zone-management options for antlerless deer. The numbers of does drive population trends.
The division also is re-launching its leadership development program this year. It previously had three levels. The new approach will create two paths for career development and leadership development.
Another change is development of a template that can be used for species management plans. Human dimensions -- essentially opinions of sportsmen and others -- will be integrated to a greater degree into management planning.
The division's human dimensions specialist, Cynthia Longmire, is working on ways to make the opinion data more available to the public.
The division recently delved deeper into uses of social media. The Department of Game, Fish and Parks now is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube digital platforms and has a staff-written blog.
A Flickr account was opened for storing and organizing GFP photos for broader uses.
GFP also uses an assessment tool called Hootsuit Pro for tracking use of the different social media tools.
"It's the new form of communication and we want to be engaged," division official Scott Simpson told the commission.
"Hashtag awesome, man!" kidded John Cooper of Pierre, the commission's chairman. He previously was secretary of game, fish and parks and oversaw the department.
The current commissioners are one to two generations older than the young people who are on the lead edge of the digital communications wave.
"We're trying to catch onto it. This is their life," observed commissioner Cathy Peterson, of Salem.
Cooper had nothing but praise for the social media efforts.
"This is the answer in terms of communicating with the public," he said.