The provincial government has created an advisory committee to update Alberta’s mule deer management plan, which was drafted more than three decades ago.
Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon says the current plan does not address the realities facing the species today.
“I have seen, when I participate in hunting, where the population has drastically increased,” he said.
“But my main concern is actually chronic wasting disease, like many resident hunters, and make sure we have a plan to manage that very technical and hard issue.”
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that infects members of the deer family, particularly mule deer in Alberta. It’s fatal in all cases and difficult to control, the province said in a release.
It’s estimated CWD has an average prevalence in Alberta of 11 per cent.
The province says mule deer populations are abundant in southern and eastern Alberta — where they cause issues such as human-wildlife conflicts and vehicle collisions — but are declining in west central, mountain and the Foothills.
The committee will include hunters, professional outfitters, Indigenous groups, landowners, conservation groups and the Alberta Beef Producers.
The spiritual and cultural importance of mule deer to Indigenous peoples will influence the committee’s work, the province said.
“As an Indigenous government, we have a vested interest in Alberta’s wildlife management policies and approach,” said Roechelle Gaudet, vice-president, Metis Settlements General Council, in a release.
“I am pleased that Alberta is reaching out to us and other Indigenous organizations to discuss the management of Alberta’s mule deer population and am hopeful this leads to improved outcomes for this important species.”
The new plan will be posted for public feedback in spring 2021 before it is finalized and implemented in time for the fall 2021 hunting season.