White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is a common wildlife species found throughout the majority of North America due to their adaptability and successful reproduction rate. As an edge species, white-tailed deer are not restricted to one type of habitat, but can be found in a wide variety of settings.
White-tailed deer can run up to 47 mph and stand at the shoulder up to 4 ft tall. Their total body length is between 6-7.75 ft and can weigh up to 300 lbs. Their average lifespan is 6 years, but have been recorded to grow as old as 14 years in captive environments.
.......................Adult White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer are herbivores capable of consuming 5-10 lbs of vegetation daily. Depending on the state and habitats, they can have a a home range of 100-300 acres. Outside of a naturally forested area, urban landscaping and agricultural fields are also commonly utilized as food sources.
White-tailed deer are classified as a large game species within the United States. Population control and hunting regulations vary state-to-state based on the state’s management plan and unique environmental pressures. As game species are state property, proper licenses and permits will need to be obtained from the state before carrying on with a deer management plan.
White-tailed deer populations can double every 2 to 3 years if not managed properly. Concentrated numbers increase the risk of disease and starvation. Therefore, maintaining a white-tailed deer population with balanced densities will allow a higher quality of individual health.
Many issues can come from high density populations of white-tailed deer. Out of control populations may lead to dangerous vehicular collisions on the road and with aircraft on the airfield during landing and take-off sequences. As deer become more habituated to human presence, individuals may become aggressive during the spring fawning season and fall mating season.
Overgrazing is a major problem that not only can damage the understory of the local habitat that other species depend on, but also destroy agricultural crops and landscaping. These conflicts can be addressed through simple management techniques.
........Vehicle collisions with deer are very dangerous
There are several options to choose from for white-tailed deer management for a group or individual trying to manage the populations on their property. The two major categories to managing wildlife species are comprised of lethal and nonlethal methods. Some methods are more costly than others or more effective depending on your long term and short term management goals.
NON LETHAL CONTROL
When employed over a long period of time, some of these methods are the most effective as long-term management options.
For industrial purposes, chain-link fencing 10-12 ft tall is suggested to exclude white-tailed deer from hazardous areas such as airfields and high traffic roads. Other fencing options are also available, although not as effective, such as: double row fencing, outward slanting fencing, and electrified fencing.
Deer can jump incredible heights, upwards to 9 ft, therefore fence height is key. For residential purposes, a light fence or netting that can cover landscaping or a personal garden can still be effective at excluding deer from browsing on vegetation.
Repellents & Frightening
Chemical and home remedies can serve as ways to deter deer. Chemical repellents that work through sense of smell and taste are available. Chemical repellents must be applied frequently throughout the growing season and can become costly and potentially even cause damage to plants. Some home remedies such as human hair or fragrant soaps may work better for private home owners.
Frightening devises such as noise makers, lights, and balloons are effective for short-term use, but overtime deer can become habituated to their use. Owning a dog or using a trained working dog to scare deer is a very effective long-term frightening device in private and public circumstances. The frequent presence of a dog on a property will lower deer presence.
Landscaping with plants that are unpalatable to deer (often labeled on packaging) or that provide low nutritional value are encouraged. The only time these may become an attractant is during a excruciating winter,when natural food supplies become scarce. There is an argument made for supplemental feeding away from the impact site, but it is not advised and often has major negative side effects.
Capture & Relocate
Check with your state game agency before acting on any sort of capture and relocation project. Relocation of deer can potentially spread disease and parasites into healthy populations. Often times, if the individual is in poor health, it will not survive being relocated.
Capture techniques include use of a drive net, drop net, rocket net, corral trap, clover trap, box trap, or chemical immobilization by a licensed professional. Permits need to be obtained through your state game agency prior to any capture and relocation activity.
................Landfills attract white-tailed deer
Although highly expensive ($300-$1000/deer), this is a highly effective long-term management plan, but not immediately effective. Fertility control will keep the current population from growing at a significant rate, but will not eliminate any current individuals if you have problems where the population is already too high for the local environment. This action can be done surgically, chemically induced by a dart, or by ingestion of chemically laced bait.
Often negatively viewed by the public, this is option is typically last resort in an industrial setting if all nonlethal tactics have failed. However, for homeowners, hunting is encouraged as a proactive way to assist in managing your local populations.
Allowing hunters onto your land during the legal hunting seasons set by your state is a cost effective way of managing a population and the most recommended in a private setting. This comes to no cost to the landowner, and if the landowners allow hunters free access to their property, it relieves them of all liabilities as well. Applying for nuisance permits that will allow a greater take of white-tailed deer from your property may be an option with the local state game agency.
Controlled hunts can also be conducted with the proper permission and permits from your state game agency. This does not affect deer movements or increase vehicle collisions, as those are usually secondary causes to the fall mating season when white-tailed deer are highly active and very mobile within their home range.
Bait & Shoot
Following your state regulations and filing out for the proper permits allows landowners to attract nuisance deer populations to bait such as a food plot, deer feeder, pile of corn, and so forth. The shooter(s) will position themselves near the bait pile and eliminate individuals.
Professionals can be hired out by a town or city to assist in reducing an out of control white-tailed deer population. There are two different types which are defined by tool of choice: Sharpshooters and professional bow hunters.
Sharpshooters will use firearms and ammo to complete the task while professional bowhunters may also be hired out for a low-noise quality in an urban or suburban setting. This management type will also require the proper permits and permission from a state game agency.
..............Fawns foraging on agricultural field
Capture & Shoot
This follows the same legal protocol with capture and relocation. A permit will need to be obtained from local state game agency in order to capture as well as a nuisance removal permit in order to exterminate.
Capture methods remain the same as when performing a capture and relocation technique. Lethal injection, captive bolt, or shooting may be used as lethal removal in this instance based on what your state permit allows.
LAWS AND REGULATIONS
Wildlife and game species are considered to be state property and each state has constructed their own management plans for different species in accordance to the state’s own environmental pressures. Be sure to check with your state game agency before moving forward with any white-tailed deer management plans to ensure the proper regulations are being followed.
Each management option may follow a different regulation according to state laws. Depending on the management route, permits or hunting licenses will need to be obtained before carrying out a management plan and the actions should be preapproved in order to help promote a responsibly healthy white-tailed deer population.
White-tailed deer on airport runway
Other forms of lethal control have been discussed in public forum such as predator introduction, parasite/disease introduction, and poisoning the local white-tailed deer population. Predator introduction is highly location based, but typically not approved for urban settings.
Parasite/disease introduction and poisoning are not deemed as environmentally friendly with fear or the parasite/disease spreading and effecting healthy white-tailed deer populations. Poisoning is difficult to control as to not negatively impact the non-target populations of other species or contaminate the meat that may potentially be harvested and available for human consumption.
Donating lethally controlled individuals in a non-chemical format to your local venison donation organization such as Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry or other supportive organizations near you is encouraged as to not promote waste.
Lethal controls provide an immediate solution with a short-term effect if not paired with an effective nonlethal control. Nonlethal controls tend to provide a long-term solution with a delayed effect. It is highly suggested to use a combination of controls that best suit the management goals for the individual or group.
In an industrial setting, such as on an airfield where white-tailed deer may lead to plane crashes, it is best to use a 10-12 foot fence along with a secondary exclusion device and potentially lethal if all other options are not effective.
Private landowners on the other hand will find it more cost effective and efficient to allow access to hunters and net or fence their landscaping or gardens in order to promote a healthier, lower white-tailed deer population. When managed properly, populations will return to a healthier status. When towns or industrial areas are creating a deer management plan, it is important to have a goal in mind, open communication with the proper state game agency, and review results yearly and make changes accordingly to their chosen management strategies.
By: Lauren Richardson,
Loomacres Wildlife Management © Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved
Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Deer and Elk Section. 2013. A guide to deer management in developed areas of Pennsylvania.
Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife. Urban Deer Technical Guide.
DeNicola, A. J., K.C. YerCauteren, P.D. Curtis, and S.E. Hygnstrom. 2000. Managing white-tail deer in suburban environments: a technical guide. Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Bishop, P., J. Glidden, M. Lowery, and D. Richlman. 2007. New York Department of Environmental Conservation: a citizen’s guide to the management of white0tail deer in urban and suburban New York.
Decker, D.J., D.B. Raik, and W.F. Siemer. 2004. A practitioners’ guide: community-based deer management. Northeast Wildlife Damage Management Research and Outreach Cooperative.