Minnesota’s new deer herd specialist is a relatively young wildlife manager from Wisconsin whose career already includes three years as deer team leader for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Adam Murkowski was 28 years old when he left his Vermont job in March 2015. He was lured back to his home state for a job as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s assistant deer, bear and wolf ecologist. During his brief return, his tasks included working with private landowners on habitat improvement and herd management as part of his state’s Deer Management Assistance Program.
The Minnesota DNR announced this week that Murkowski will start Monday as the point person for management of Minnesota’s deer, elk and moose populations. The position was vacated in October by Leslie McInenly, who was promoted to the DNR wildlife section’s forest habitat team supervisor. McInenly spent about three years at the helm of Minnesota’s deer hunting seasons and her tenure coincided with hunter dissatisfaction over deer population declines and the establishment of controversial deer population goals to rebuild the herd, especially Up North.
Like McInenly, Murkowski received his undergraduate degree in wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. (McInenly said the two did not cross paths at the school). He steps into one of the highest-profile wildlife jobs in St. Paul less than three years after receiving his masters degree in forest resources from the University of Arkansas-Monticello.
“Adam is passionate about deer and deer hunting, and I think he is particularly well-suited to our big game job,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations program manager.
Murkowski likely will be involved this year in the DNR’s response to a state audit of the agency’s overall deer management program and practices. The Legislature ordered the audit in 2015 and an independent report from the Legislative Auditor is expected this spring.
Also at hand for Murkowski is a controversial elk management plan that the DNR is trying to adopt in northwestern Minnesota for hunting and tourism purposes. While farmers and ranchers have resisted expansion of elk herds in the area, other residents strongly favor more elk.
In the area of moose management, the new big game boss is facing a perilous drop in herd size and the recent closure of moose hunting. Minnesota moose numbers have dropped to 3,450 animals in the northeast corner of the state, down 60 percent in less than a decade, while researchers scramble to understand the decline.