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Facts: Deer Population Control

update 2014:

Some deer populations have been managed to unsustainable levels in the past, but the U.S. deer population is currently in decline.  Information at:  http://www.deerfriendly.com/decline-of-deer-populations

Blacktail and mule deer populations in the west have been in decline since the 60's and 70's.  These populations are over hunted and in decline

In recent years, deer populations have increased to numbers unsupportable by wildlife habitat alone. Many researchers believe that this increase results from continued human incursion into deer habitat, and the mismanagement of deer populations by forest and wildlife authorities who see hunting as the primary means of population control.

Present Wildlife Management Practices
Wildlife and land management agencies purport to effectively limit deer populations to numbers sustainable by their natural habitat. In reality, the policies of such agencies exacerbate deer overpopulation, serving only to provide a population large enough to suit sport hunters. The overpopulation of deer stems not only from the specific mismanagement of deer populations, but from the mismanagement of our forestlands and natural areas.

Sport Hunting
Currently, there are approximately eight does for every buck in the wild. Laws restrict the number of does that hunters may kill. Deer do not have monogamous mating relationships, and bucks will often mate with more than one female. As a result, the ratio of does to bucks sets the stage for a population explosion.

Allowing hunters to kill more does, however, does not resolve population problems. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the open hunting of does left fawns without mothers, and removed too many females from the breeding population. Sport hunting decimated deer populations in many states. As a result, states passed laws restricting the hunting of does. These policies have contributed to the overpopulation of deer.

Hunting does remove some animals from the population, but it does not keep deer populations at a continually reduced level. Immediately after a hunt, the remaining animals flourish because less competition for food exists, allowing the remaining animals to live healthier lives, and resulting in a higher reproductive rate.

Left alone by humans, the ratio of does to bucks would be approximately equal. In Defense of Animals believes that sport hunting is not only an ineffective wildlife management tool, but a cruel and unnecessary practice. Sport hunting should be banned, allowing deer populations to regulate themselves naturally.

Banning sport hunting, however, is only one of the measures needed to control deer population. We also need to change the land management policies that create large deer populations, and to limit deer access to vegetation in human habitations.

Land Mismanagement
Many national, private, and state owned lands are open to logging. The natural fires that used to renew forests are no longer allowed to burn with regularity. Thus, logging companies and many land management agencies argue that logging is a means of maintaining a forest's health, allowing saplings and ground cover access to sun. In reality, logging normally takes the form of clear cutting.

Companies demolish large stands of trees, rather than selectively taking trees from different stands of timber. This practice ill effects animals dependent on trees for food and cover. It also creates fields of additional "browse" vegetation for deer, causing a surge in deer population attributable to the introduction of this food source. In turn, governments argue that hunting should be used to control the resulting population increase.

Human Incursions Into Deer Habitat
Deer enjoy eating the vegetation offered by homes in suburban and urban developments, and munching on farm crops. These developments, built in formerly forested and fielded areas, provide ideal edge and winter feeding grounds for deer. Humans can take measures to limit the access deer have to such food sources.

Reducing deer access to vegetation in residential developments will force deer to be more reliant on wild vegetation. When deer must rely on available wild lands for their only food source, a corresponding drop in deer population should take place.

In addition, preventing deer from seeing residential developments as a food source should reduce the contact and conflicts between humans and deer.

By changing hunting, land management policies, and human development practices, we can better control deer populations. Some or all of the following measures should be employed.

Ban sport hunting.

Reintroduce natural predators, such as wolves and mountain lions, where possible. Maintain existing populations of natural predators.

Ban clear-cut logging.

Allow fires to burn naturally in wildlife areas. Limit new human habitations in wildlife areas, decreasing the risk of property damage in the event of a fire, and making controlled burns a more acceptable wildlife management tool.

Prevent humans in residential areas, state parks, and federal parks from feeding deer. Deer should be reliant on their own habitat for food.

Erect high fencing around crops and plants. Electric and sturdy fencing increase the effectiveness of this deterrent. Fences should be at least eight feet high and buried one foot deep. Openings in the fence should be small. Contact a university agricultural extension office or landscape business before purchasing and installing your fencing.

Steps can also be taken to reduce conflicts with deer.

Automobile Safety: Drive slowly and cautiously, scanning the road and roadside at sunrise, sunset, and in the first few hours after the sun has set.

Remove vegetation from roadsides to reduce the attractiveness of roadside areas to deer.

Keeping Your Yard Safe

Prevent deer from eating your precious yard plants and trees by installing fencing, as suggested above.

Individual trees can be protected with mesh and netting. Contact a nursery to find out what types of netting are effective.

Plant native plants tolerant of deer browsing.

Plant plants that repel deer through smell and taste. Contact your nursery to find out more.

Use flashing lights or loud noises to startle deer away.
 

 In Defense of Animals
  131 Camino Alto, Mill Valley, CA 94941. Tel.: 415-388-9641
  http://www.idausa.org/   email: ida@idausa.org