NE Section releases Deer Management Position Statement

By Caroline E. Murphy

©Bill Thompson/USFWS

The Northeast Section of The Wildlife Society recently published a position statement on the management of chronically overabundant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations. The position statement provides valuable and well-vetted knowledge for municipalities looking to reduce deer-human conflicts

According to Dr. Scott Williams, CWB®, an associate agricultural scientist at the Department of Forestry and Horticulture of The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and a member of the committee tasked with drafting this work, “This statement transcends politics and deals with the realities and science behind what can be a contentious issue.”

The contentious nature of deer management means that communities need to understand the different values and opinions regarding management options when faced with an issue of overabundance. According to the position statement, “scientific data collection may address problems related to deer impacts to the environment, but citizen values must decide whether deer-human conflicts are unacceptable.”

If deer-human conflicts are deemed unacceptable, the statement recommends communities take steps to quantify the issue, such as monitor the number of deer-vehicle collisions to confirm whether or not a deer-vehicle collision problem exists. The position statement warns against using general density estimates to define these conflicts, as they are difficult to obtain, often disputed, and don’t pertain directly to deer-human interaction.

Once the potential conflict is quantified, management options must be identified. The position statement includes a list of recommended management actions to address the impacts of overabundant deer, several of which encourage the use of hunting. While the Northeast Section acknowledges hunting may not be socially acceptable to all communities and should be done in conjunction with modification of human behavior, they state it to be the most effective management option when dealing with deer-human conflict.

Dr. Williams along with the rest of the committee believe this position statement will have far-reaching impacts on the Northeast, stating that the Section sees “this statement being used to help support the positions that many of the state biologists are taking with regard to the realities of deer overabundance in their various states.”

Another major hope of the committee is that these guidelines will allow for municipalities to understand the potential challenges they face when pursuing lethal management programs against deer overpopulation.

Caroline Murphy is the Government Affairs Associate at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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