11/20/2014 05:02 EST | Updated 01/20/2015 05:59 EST

Declining deer population prompts Saskatchewan to shorten hunting season

REGINA - A declining white-tailed deer population has prompted the Saskatchewan government to shorten the hunting season by about two weeks.

The Environment Ministry says a few harsh winters have hurt the province's deer numbers.

Wildlife ecologist Allison Henderson says surveys indicate an overall decline of roughly 30 per cent compared to the long-term average.

Darrell Crabbe of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation says the deer population is down 80 per cent in some areas.

Henderson says the hunting season that opened Thursday will close Dec. 2.

The number of licences available remains the same, but she says so far this year the province has issued about half as many as last year.

Crabbe suggests the province should have acted sooner.

“It should have been addressed ... two years ago when we had our first major winter event, but sometimes those wheels move slowly,” he said.

Henderson said further restrictions are possible if deer numbers continue to fall. Quotas for big-game species are reviewed annually.

Crabbe believes the population will rebound quickly if there are several less-severe winters.