Dr. James Kroll, widely known as “Doctor Deer”, now has a new title. Kroll was recently appointed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as the state’s first “Deer Czar.” Actually, Kroll’s official title is “Whitetail Deer Trustee” (a position created by Walker in an Executive Order) but many Wisconsin hunters– at least those upset with the hunting in recent seasons– have been calling for someone to conduct an independent review of the DNR’s deer management practices. “Czar” was their working title and Walker– the union-busting governor you’ve likely read about– delivered on a campaign promise to provide such a man.
James Kroll is no stranger to whitetail management, of course. He currently chairs the Forest Wildlife department at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, and is the director at the Institute for White-Tailed Deer Management and Research. Dr. Kroll is also a consultant, book author, and is frequently seen on outdoor television. Kroll will be paid a reported salary of $125,000 and is expected to produce a scientifically based review of Wisconsin’s deer management practices by March of 2012.
This is a fascinating, unprecedented step in Wisconsin deer management. On one hand, I can see a review of any agency by an outsider to be a potentially healthy exercise; bureaucracies can be burdened by tradition, slow to react, and resistant to change. On the flip side, state biologists are generally hard-working, underpaid professionals who can (undeservedly) take it in the chops when hunters have a poor season or two. DNR officials aren’t saying much about the New Czar in Town right now, but I can’t imagine them being too giddy about his presence.
And finally there’s this: Gov. Walker has shown he’s unafraid to take on heavy-hitting opponents (just ask public employees unions in the Badger State); and while many of the state’s hunters welcome the notion of a Czar to oversee the DNR, what if Kroll’s input and recommendations are even more unpopular than the status quo? The deer hunter’s vote (at 700,000-plus) in Wisconsin is no small consideration, and depending on what Kroll’s report finds, Walker might regret keeping this promise. Your thoughts?