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“Deer are contributing to the shifting composition of the forest,’’ said Frelich, who has studied the deer-related loss of new-growth hemlock trees in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
McInenly said deer hunters in Minnesota understand the need to keep the herd in check. Hunters went along with the deer reduction in 2005-2007 when foresters and ecologists were more vocal about browsing damage, she said. And it’s the DNR’s job to balance competing interests, especially when it comes to the “upper thresholds’’ for protecting healthy ecosystems, she said.
But the DNR can’t ignore the social reality of deer hunting and “certainly’’ listens to hunters, McInenly said.
For now, indications point toward a managed increase in the deer population, but no one knows what that number will be.
“We are trying to find the sweet spot, but I don’t think you ever land on the sweet spot,’’ McInenly said.
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