The Department of Natural Resources is now accepting applications for this year's antlerless deer draw, but there will be fewer permits than last year due to the declining deer population.

Deer

The number of antlerless deer permits available this year has been reduced by about 20 per cent in an effort to manage the dwindling population responsibly, government officials say. (CBC)

"Due to the severity of last winter and the resulting losses in the deer herd, the number of permits available for antlerless deer hunters is being reduced by about 20 per cent compared to last fall's hunt,'' Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud said in a statement.

"Reducing the permits allows for more breeding, which helps grow the deer population," he said.

There will be 2,700 permits available, down from 3,450 last year, based on recommendations from big game biologists and wildlife managers.

Up until now, New Brunswick's deer population had seen several years of steady growth, provincial officials have said.

Successful applicants will be notified the week of Aug. 18 and will receive a validation sticker in the mail by Oct. 1.

To be eligible, applicants must first purchase a 2014 deer hunting licence at a private vendor or Service New Brunswick location.

Application cards for the antlerless deer draw are attached to the licence. The cost to apply is $4.52 and applications can be submitted in person to SNB or sent by mail to the Department of Natural Resources.

First-time hunters, people born on or after Jan. 1, 1981, and bow hunters must meet specific education training requirements to be eligible to purchase a licence.

In March, New Brunswick's total deer population stood at about 90,000, Joe Kennedy, a provincial deer biologist, had told CBC News. But he predicted a 15 per cent winter mortality rate — about 13,000 deer.

The long winter and harsh conditions made the deer weaker and more susceptible to prey, Kennedy had said.

A 15 per cent mortality rate is higher than normal, but still lower than the 40 per cent recorded in 2008 and 2009, he said.