Until the early 1980's, Wisconsin resource managers believed the state was doing
a reasonable job of keeping deer populations near goals. They thought
silvicultural impacts were tolerable so long as herds were kept below 70% of
carrying capacity. The situation started going awry in the mid-1980s, but it
wasn't until the mid-1990s that foresters and wildlife biologists became
especially alarmed. Despite warnings, the state has been unable to restore herds
to goals (see chart, below). A DNR specialist points out that contributing
factors include: winters have moderated, increasing survival; baiting and
feeding are subsidizing deer; and privatized deer management especially in the
farmlands reduces DNR influence on harvests. Also, the precedent of having a
long period of over-goal deer populations has built resistance among hunters to
Deer management in
Wisconsin is now a hot topic receiving attention at the highest levels of state
government. Following is a collection of resources a team at Wisconsin SAF has
pulled together to help foresters
follow the issues and participate in the debate on alternatives.
Wisconsin hired an independent reviewer, Dr.
James Kroll, a Texas-based researcher popularly called "Dr. Deer" or the
"Deer Czar" to audit the state's deer management program. The
WHITE-TAILED DEER TRUSTEE AND REVIEW COMMITTEE FINAL REPORT
was released July 10, 2012.
additional findings including past surveys on his
Dr. Deer website.
September 6, 2012, WI
SAF hosted a Webinar on the Deer Management
Final Report, presented by Wildlife Biologist Dr. Gary Alt, a
co-author of the report.
Population Maps and Research
DNR maintains an excellent
management website, covering a host of publications on deer research,
historical harvests, health, and other topics.
Although hunters often dispute DNR's deer
population estimates, maps showing data based on previous year harvests
statistics are available. Deer populations exceed 100 per square mile in
some areas. How high are the fall and over-winter estimates for your area?
deer are enough? As advised by Wildlife Biologist Ron Eckstein,
“35+ years of field
observation by DNR wildlife and forestry staff confirms that overwinter deer
populations in excess of 20 deer per square mile will have lasting impacts
on tree reproduction. Hemlock, white cedar, yellow birch, white birch and
red oak are particularly hurt. The best balance between economic,
ecological, and deer hunting objectives is moderate deer populations in the
range of 15 to 20 deer per square mile in the northern forest. At this
level, deer can reproduce at the highest level, we can have a good harvest,
forests will thrive, and the ecology will be protected.”
Deer Resource Center for
Eastern North America
"Caring for Deer and Forests" offers an excellent
collection of deer management information maintained by Penn State
University, US Forest Service Research & Development, and Southern Regional
2007 Wisconsin SAF
Position Statement on Deer
Supporting the 2006 Council on Forestry study
(below), Wisconsin SAF issued a policy statement encouraging efforts to
reduce deer herbivory impacts.
Wisconsin Council on
Forestry Deer Impacts Study
In response to field surveys showing adverse
impacts on forest regeneration, the Council on Forestry sent the Governor a
deer management position in 2006. The Council concluded, "From a
science-based perspective, the burgeoning deer herd is having a detrimental
impact on forest regeneration, health and quality, and on the biological
diversity of Wisconsin’s forests. There will likely be long term,
detrimental effects on forest productivity in Wisconsin if deer population
density is not reduced." How herd reduction is to be accomplished was not
More resources to consider: