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Release: DNR hires a new big game program leader

Barbara Keller is pictured holding a live elk while doing wildlife research. Keller will take over as the Minnesota DNR's new big game program leader starting on Feb. 1. (Photo from the Minnesota DNR)

Minnesota’s new big game program supervisor will be Barbara Keller, an experienced wildlife researcher and manager who begins Feb. 1 overseeing the state’s deer, elk and moose populations with the Department of Natural Resources. 

“Barbara has a strong background in all aspects of managing deer, moose and elk populations, which will be an asset here in Minnesota,” said Paul Telander, wildlife section chief. “We had an exceptional pool of candidates for this position and are looking forward to the skills and experience Barbara will bring to Minnesota’s big game program.”

Keller has over 12 years of experience in wildlife management, research and diseases. Since 2016, she was the cervid program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, where she oversaw management of Missouri white-tailed deer and elk populations, including the chronic wasting disease program. Keller also set statewide deer regulations and helped supervise the development of regulations for what will be the state’s first elk hunting season.

The primary responsibilities of the big game program supervisor are to manage deer and elk populations and harvest seasons and to work with groups and individuals interested in big game management to address the expectations of a diverse public. 

“I’m excited to join the DNR and get to work on all aspects of deer, elk and moose management,” Keller said. “I’m especially looking forward to implementing the white-tailed deer management plan.”

Keller attended Northland College in Wisconsin and received a bachelor of science degree in natural resource management, has a master’s degree in wildlife science from New Mexico State University, and a doctorate degree from the University of Missouri in wildlife science.

Her research includes studies on bighorn sheep behavior in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; on bison, pronghorn, elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer populations in Custer State Park in South Dakota; and on a restored elk population in the Missouri Ozarks. Keller enjoys deer and turkey hunting, hiking, paddling and fishing.

Keller takes over for Erik Thorson, who had accepted a temporary assignment to oversee the agency’s while-tailed deer and other big game programs.