Nebraska Deer History 2011 to 2015 Plan

Nebraska Deer Population, Management News and Information Archive

Nebraska Deer History 2011 to 2015 Plan page 46
     White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are native
to Nebraska. By the early 1900’s, white-tailed deer were
nearly extirpated by market and subsistence hunting. In
1907 the Nebraska Legislature passed a law prohibiting
the taking of deer. This law allowed deer populations to
recover to the point that in 1945 a limited hunting season
was held with hunters harvesting 361 deer, two whitetailed
deer and 359 mule deer. Since that time, the whitetailed
deer population has steadily increased, with over
77,000 white-tailed deer harvested in 2010.
Hunting seasons throughout the 1950s, 1960s and
1970s were generally conservative using a combination
of buck only and either sex permits to manage the
population. During the 1980s, the deer population had
reached a point where a more liberal approach to
antlerless (i.e., doe and fawn) harvest became necessary
to achieve population goals. Liberal antlerless season
formats including antlerless-only permits and bonus deer
tags has become the norm since the 1990s. Unlike mule
deer, the whitetail has shown the ability to adapt to land
use changes and benefit from most agricultural practices,
crop production or even urbanization. In addition,
whitetails have expanded their range throughout the state
due in part to the increase of trees on what was once a
grassland landscape.

White-tailed deer have a relatively high average
reproductive rate of almost two fawns per adult female
with 67 percent of doe fawns conceiving and nearly 100
percent of the adult does conceiving. Predation on adult
deer is low but coyotes and bobcats are considered the
primary predators of fawns. Refugia in the forms of
hunting leases, urban encroachment, municipality and
private land holdings closed to hunting have added areas
of protection for white-tailed deer not historically seen
before. Because of the increase in available habitat and
protection, high reproductive rate and low predation rate,
whitetails have flourished across the state, especially in
the east. Hunting remains the only reliable population

control method, although disease (i.e., Epizootic
Hemorrhagic Disease and Blue Tongue) may sporadically
reduce local or regional numbers. Chronic Wasting
Disease was discovered in white-tailed deer in Nebraska
in 2002, but the long-term effects of this prion disease
are unknown.
It will be a challenge for biologists in the future to
develop season formats that will provide the necessary
white-tailed deer management to meet the above goal for
big game. Managers must determine the desired population
level for each management unit, and then calculate
an antlerless harvest that will achieve the population
goal. A more conservative approach of doe harvest may
be used in western Nebraska white-tailed deer habitats
due to less productive and slower growing populations.

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