Washington Deer Population:  About 280,000 deer in 2019, up from 270,000 in 2018 and 250,000 in 2017 based on harvest data.  Down from a state estimate of 330,000 deer in 2015. The state reported that higher numbers for the deer hunt in 2020 were likely due to more deer and nearly 10,000 more hunters.  Whitetail deer are sta. ble to increasing while mule deer are stable to declining.  A general downward population trend since the early 2000's.  Herd analysis at right.   Historical Washington deer hunting statistics and news archive.

Washington Deer News

AHD, Officials confirm virus killing deer in San Juan islands now seen in Anacortes July 31, 2021 Washtington, Skagit Valley Herald
... six dead deer were reported in the neighborhood near Cap Sante Park. They included four fawns, a young doe and an adult buck... a necropsy verified the cause of death was a viral infection known as adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD)..,

Deer foaming at the mouth, dropping dead in San Juan Islands July 9, 2021 Washington, Frederick News-Post
... the disease was identified as adenovirus hemorrhagic disease ... Residents reported more than 50 dead deer to state and local wildlife officials since early May ..,

Critters search for shade during Washington's heat wave, possible harbinger of future climate conditions July 1, 2021, The Spokesman-Review
... “You could see population impacts from a drought, “Atamian said... This can lead to disease transmission. In 2015, for example, an outbreak of bluetongue disease killed hundreds of white-tail deer in Northeast Washington. Bluetongue is transmitted by gnats, especially in dry conditions when the deer are concentrated near waterholes and mud...

... They are what are called “coursing” predators, flowing like a river over the land, running animals to exhaustion, culling the weak, the sick and the small. It is no accident that wolf pups are born the same time elk and deer birth their young—creating food for the growing wolf pack...

Lacey police find baby deer in hotel bathroom June 16, 2021 Washington, KING5.com
... The hotel guest said they took the deer back to their room because its mother had been hit by a car. .. “They didn’t want to leave the baby deer alone,” ...That’s exactly what they should have done, said Washington Fish and Wildlife officer ... once a deer has contact with a human, it’s hard for them to survive in the wild.  [Not true, a persistent old myth used to scare citizens.  The couple should have contacted a fawn rehabilitator, which is where the fawn went] ...

... First discovered in California in 1993, the disease had been seen in Washington just once before this year. In 2017, about a dozen animals fell ill near Goldendale in Klickitat County... Last fall, the virus unexpectedly emerged up north..,

WDFW confirms AHD in San Juan Islands deer June 3, 2021 Washington, wa.gov
... Wildlife managers confirmed a viral infection known as adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD) is affecting deer on the San Juan Islands this month... The disease is specific to members of the deer family and is not uncommon in other states, including Oregon where outbreaks occur every year. AHD was also found in British Columbia on the nearby Gulf Islands and on southern Vancouver Island during the fall of 2020..,

... Wolves don't ambush prey the way cougars do. They are what are called "coursing" predators, flowing like a river over the land, running animals to exhaustion ... It is no accident that wolf pups are born the same time elk and deer birth their young — creating food for the growing wolf pack...

10 deer reported dead on San Juan Islands: a virus could be to blame May 12, 2021 Washington, KING5
... WDFW state wildlife biologist Dr. Kristin Mansfield ... believes it to be cervid Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (AHD)... It was first documented in Washington in 2017 in Klickitat County... British Columbia recorded its first outbreak among coastal deer on Vancouver Island in 2020..,

Legislature does not fund wildlife crossing project on Highway 97 May 11, 2021 Washington, The Spokesman-Review
... a key advocate of the project, the Legislature “did not resolve disagreements around how to raise revenue for the 16-year Forward Washington transportation projects spending package.” ...

... nearly 10,000 more hunters went into the field last year, compared to 2019 ... bigger numbers, likely due to increased deer population, and the general urge to get outdoors during the pandemic..,

... The gray wolf population in Washington state increased by 22% in the past year, raising the minimum number of wolves documented by state and tribal biologists to 178 in 29 packs [in 2020] — up from 145 wolves and 26 packs at the end of 2019..,

... The planned undercrossings, along with associated fencing and other needs, will cost roughly $12 million.  CNW, the Mule Deer Foundation, the Colville Confederated Tribes and others raised $200,000 and started work on the project in 2019...

...  Annual prescribed burns on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lands in eastern Washington are planned to start in April, as conditions allow. Controlled fire reduces the risk of wildfire and improves habitat for animals such as deer, elk, and bighorn sheep...

The Washington Predator-Prey Project is a five-year research effort on the effects of wolves and their competitors on ungulate populations in managed landscapes. The project looks at the impact to mule deer, white-tailed deer, and elk from wolves and smaller carnivores such as cougars, bobcats, and coyotes. - March 25, 2021

... A vocal group of hunters in Northeast Washington has pushed for antlerpoint restrictions in that region. Between 2011 and 2014, there was a four-point minimum for whitetail deer in GMUs 117 and 121, despite WDFW staff not supporting the move. WDFW returned to all buck season in 2015...

Town considers deer options, no-feeding ordinance March 19, 2021 Washington, Whidbey News-Times
... the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said there’s nothing currently available [birth control] for the resident ungulates who roam the streets of the town... it hasn’t been used on blacktail deer... the mayor found trapping and killing to be an “ugly” and “extreme” response to the overpopulation problem...

Hunting groups worried sport is 'under attack' in Washington state January 12, 2021 Washington, Seattle Times
...  Thorburn points to a recently filed lawsuit looking to outlaw spring bear hunting and last year’s ban on coyote-killing contests. In 2019, the WDFW ended a popular antlerless deer hunt in Eastern Washington... Smith said ... the commission needs to start making policy decisions “grounded in sound science,” ...

... Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife says it will summon professional crews to collect dozens of mule deer and fit them with GPS/satellite tracking collars... The collars are programmed to drop off the deer after four years...

Herd numbers linger below 5-year average September 25, 2020 Washington, Lewiston Morning Tribune
... in southeastern Washington ... late snow in the spring of 2019 was especially tough on deer  ... deer herds still recovering from the harsh winter in 2016-17 ... “We wouldn’t expect whitetail deer harvest to significantly improve until the 2021 season, and mule deer harvest by 2022,” ..,

Deer refuge undertakes lethal coyote control September 24, 2020 Washington, Wahkiakum County Eagle
... "We did conduct coyote control at the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer this year after a year of low fawn survival," Myers said in a written statement. "An intensive study conducted on the refuge concluded that fawn survival was one of the biggest factors affecting the deer population, and the main reason for low fawn survival was coyote predation...
Wildlife, habitat take devastating hit from wildfires across region September 20, 2020 Washington, Sports and Weather Right Now
... Eastern Washington blazes ... have consumed roughly a half a million acres of shrub-steppe habitat critical to species from amphibians to mule deer from Yakima north to Brewster and the Colville Indian Reservation...

... In Northeast Washington ... Preseason surveys for the past three years yielded stable buck-to-doe and fawn-to-doe ratios...  the white-tailed deer population is down in District 2 due to a series of events starting with the drought and blue tongue outbreak of 2015 that lasted well into October... Last winter was mild and 2020 spring precipitation was up ..,

How does WDFW survey for deer? September 16, 2020 Washington, The Independent
... WDW biologists drive around in the early evening for two weeks every August and September... focused on getting pre-hunting season buck to doe ratios... For 2020, this range is 25- 41 bucks per 100 does. This is consistent with what has been observed over the past 10 years..,

Environmentalists say Washington’s wolf program is broken September 8, 2020 Washington, Heraldnet.com
... The current plan does not account for the declining population of deer and other ungulates that provide food for wolves in the wild, which has knocked the predator-prey relationship out of balance ...The DFW estimates the state’s wolf population grew to 145 animals in 26 packs in 2019..,

First phase of Safe Passage 97 project completed with private funding September 4, 2020 Washington, Sports and Weather Right Now
... the renovation of Janis Bridge to serve as a wildlife undercrossing, deer fencing completed on either side of Highway 97 for 1 mile south of the bridge, and required gates and cattle guards installed at access roads ...

The Washington Outdoors Report: Early season hunting prospects August 26, 2020 Washington, Goldendale Sentinel
... Northeast:  With the elimination of all antlerless harvest, a mild winter last year, and a wet/lush spring, we should have good recruitment of last year’s fawns ... “Elk numbers have been pretty consistent the past few years, and nothing indicates a drastic change”  Central Elk:  few calves in February/March ..,

This could stop deadly Hanford crashes with wandering deer and elk August 19, 2020 Washington, Tri-City Herald
... roadside posts wrapped with white canvas bags every 50 feet... lights shine on the white bags, making the bags look to other wildlife like a fleeing white-tailed deer, a sign of danger ... A study ... showed that posts draped with white bags reduced the number of car and deer crashes by 65 percent...

... Washington’s elk and deer numbers have plummeted in the last 24 years ... State biologists interviewed off the record for this article state that Washington deer and elk are failing massively due to our unwillingness to control predators...

...  he saw it: a pile of black trash bags, each one bursting with antlers. He stooped and scanned under the vehicle with his flashlight — more bags with antlers. In the bed of the truck, still more... a search for two poached deer skulls that ended with 27 ...

Catching a band of wildlife killers June 1, 2020 Washington, High Country News
... A foul odor erupted when Bahrenburg opened the bags. Some of the heads were fresh; others crawled with maggots. There were at least a dozen... These were deer from Oregon, Haynes admitted...

... Deer were equally likely to obtain diets that satisfied requirements in treated and untreated plots, indicating that although herbicide application reduced understory biomass and DE intake, it did not explain whether deer were able to meet requirements. We also found that the biomass of deciduous shrubs and trees, forbs, and suitable forage was ~25 times greater in 4–9 year old stands than closed canopy stands (14–90 years old), indicating the importance of maintaining early seral habitat for sustaining populations of black-tailed deer...
... The game wardens in rural northeast Washington have seen an explosion of problem cougar/human encounters. One officer told us that over the last few years his time spent dealing with cougar calls went from around 3-6% a few years ago up to around 25-30% last year! ... 

WDFW to start trapping wolves in NE Washington May 1, 2020 Washington, Capital Press
... Fish and Wildlife will put a high priority on putting collars on the members of packs that have a history of attacking livestock or are being tracked for ongoing research into how wolves are affecting its wild prey, such as deer...

As Washington’s wolf population continues to grow, some wonder when will they spread out April 23, 2020 Wasington, The Spokesman-Review
... Most wolves remain concentrated in northeast ... biologists documented a minimum of 108 wolves in 21 packs and 10 breeding pairs in 2019. That’s compared to 97 wolves in 22 packs and nine breeding pairs in 2018 ...In 2018, for the first time, a pack was documented west of the Cascade Crest..,

... The harvest rate will not exceed 16 percent of the cougar population for each unit in order to maintain Washington’s cougar population...  Recordings of the April 9 workshop and the April 10 meeting ...

... WDFW and University of Washington biologists will use the drone to film landscapes and work sites associated with the Predator-Prey Project, a five-year research effort that began in the winter of 2016-17. Researchers working with the project are studying the impact to ungulates (mule deer, white-tailed deer, and elk) from wolves and other carnivores such as cougars, bobcats, and coyotes...

... After being nearly wiped out in the late 1800s, the [elk] are making a comeback in Skagit Valley. Local tribes are thrilled, but the agricultural industry is not... Tribal member Scott Schuyler says compromise is difficult because of the pervasive belief that neither elk nor tribes belong in the valley...

Local group starts wildlife survey, concerned about predators January 14, 2020 Washington, Eastern Washington Statesmen Examiner
... ungulate herds appear to be declining at a rate that should be making state officials nervous. Instead, he claims that biologists with Fish and Wildlife seem to be underreporting the number of predators and over-reporting deer, elk and moose populations to make the situation look better than it is... The Northeast Washington Wildlife Group is asking local residents and hunters to fill out a survey ...

Wildlife group surveys public on cougar concerns January 13, 2020 Washington, Capital Press
... In recent years, the region's cougar populations have increased, impacting deer, elk and moose populations ... Magart expects the 2019 deer harvest to be the lowest on record  ... With less prey, the cougars are moving closer to towns ...

WDFW to use helicopters to capture mule deer January 3, 2020 Washington, wa.gov
... Starting in early January, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will conduct mule deer captures from helicopters in three study areas along the east slope of the Cascades in Okanogan, Chelan, and Kittitas counties.  The Department will use contracted professional crews to capture approximately 50 adult female mule deer in each area..,

... These estimates, and the precision of the estimates, are comparable to those reported elsewhere for black-tailed deer in the Pacific Northwest, suggesting that the random encounter model can be considered as an alternative option to traditional parameter estimation methodologies for black-tailed deer in this thickly forested region. We also report buck:doe ratios of 23:100 and fawn:doe ratios of 60:100...

State fish, wildlife agency in a hunt for funding December 10, 2019 Washingrton, The Daily Herald
... Nearly 124,000 licenses for deer were sold to hunters in Washington state in 2013, with 33,657 deer harvested. By 2018, the number of deer hunters had dropped 12.5 percent to less than 109,000 licenses with 27,896 deer taken... the decline in hunters has meant a significant loss of revenue ...

Effects of fuel reduction timber harvests on forage resources for deer in northeastern Washington  IT Hull, LA Shipley, SL Berry, C Loggers, TR Johnson - … Ecology and Management, 2019
... Fire suppression has increased the canopy cover, stocking density, and fuel loads of dry forests in the inland northwestern United States... Our results indicate that active management prescriptions intended to reduce fuel loads posed by overstocked conifers can also increase the amount of high quality forage for deer and other wild ungulates, especially when carefully planning the timing, intensity, and rotation schedules of fuels reduction treatments...

Elk hoof disease research underway November 7, 2019 Washington, The Wahkiakum County Eagle
... The disease attacks the hooves of elk, eating away the foot and causing them to walk on soft tissue... first observed in southwest Washington ... Residents of southwest Washington have noticed a decrease in numbers of elk ...

... Lehman says it is illegal to shoot game in a residential area, and poaching is a felony punishable by jail time and fines. WDFW says people who offer tips that lead to a conviction could recieve up to $500 ...

... Over at least two decades, the southwest Washington business owner spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying the exclusive hunting licenses he used to kill more than 100 elk...  he killed an elk nicknamed “Bullwinkle”  ... in an area the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had closed to hunting — was something of a local pet...

... Starting in 2020, WDFW will have a 25-year strategic plan... Climate change models for the Pacific Northwest predict warmer winters and summers, less snowpack and increased forest fire. Those changes will, in turn, impact wildlife with some species, like deer and elk, thriving while others, like moose, trout and salmon, suffer...

Deer Season opens Saturday October 11, 2019 Washington, NCWLife
... The most-recent numbers available estimate mule deer hunters spend over $1-thousand dollars annually in trip and equipment expenditures. The estimated economic impact to local and state economies in 2014 was $40-million...

... The health of the herd is improving as the deer try to recover from the devastating winter of 2016-17 ... deer populations along the coast are very stable, and that looks to continue ... deer do not face extreme winters there.  “It’s more of a situation of habitat capacity,” ..,

Most Popular Hunting Seasons of the Year Open Oct. 12 October 8, 2019 Washington, Dailyfly
... “All indications are the black-tailed deer and most elk populations west of the Cascades have remained stable ... Severe weather and wildfire events in recent years have contributed to declines in some of Washington’s deer and elk herds in eastern Washington and populations remain below historical levels. The department has restricted doe and cow harvest in those areas to rebuild those herds.” ..,

EHD, Deadly deer disease diagnosed in four E. Washing cows October 1, 2019 Union-Bulletin
... Four cows in Walla Walla and Franklin counties were diagnosed this week with epizootic hemorrhagic disease ... 

Hunters likely to find fewer deer, elk in SE part of state September 20, 2019 Washington, lmtribune.com
... Deer and elk numbers in southeastern Washington are still experiencing some effects of harsh weather two winters ago, and the animals were hit again with deep snow and lingering cold temperatures in the late winter and early spring of 2019...  led to a decrease in the number of whitetail and mule deer ..,

Where to go, what to hunt: Eastern Washington's 2019 prospects September 12, 2019 The Spokesman-Review
... in District 1 ...The buck-to-doe ratio is “exactly the same” as it was last year (32 bucks per 100 does) ... The mild start to the 2018-19 winter, followed by heavier snow later, didn’t seem to impact overall deer populations ... there are around 13,000 mule deer in the Washtucna area and 11,000 in the Odessa area... The mule deer population has stayed relatively stable, although it’s still recovering from several harder winters and droughts ...

Falling elk populations bring hunting reductions September 11, 2019 Washington, Yakima Herald-Republic
... Low cow numbers and falling survival rates among calves continue to plague Yakima’s elk herd ... researchers don’t know why their survival numbers are historically low... Winter surveys estimated a population of 8,231 elk, slightly fewer than last year’s less reliable surveys during a mild winter at lower elevations and well below the objective of 9,500...

Washington Data:    The state estimates a deer population from 2015 to 2020 of about 90,000 to 110,000 for mule deer and the same for blacktail deer although no estimate was provided for 2020.   About 100,000 for each with an average of 110,000 whitetail deer giving an average population of about 310,000 which was the the 2014 deer population estimate  according to the Game Management Plan, p. 62 [PDF].    A likely increase in deer and nearly 10,000 more deer hunters in 2020.
     Using harvest data to create population estimates since the Plan for 2014 gives the results reported in the table at below.   Estimates are adjusted for the number of hunters in the field.  About 250,000 deer in 2017 based on a 25 percent decline in the deer harvest and considering comments from the state.  Blacktail deer populations are particularly difficult to estimate.
Washington Deer Population
2014 State Estimate
Other years based on harvest
adjusted for number of hunters

   A more severe winter than normal in February
2019 put elk and deer in poor condition, reducing whitetail and mule deer populations in some areas.  Reduced elk permits for 2019 in the southeast and antlerless whitetails in the northeast to help the herd recover.  A more mild 2019-20 winter and lush 2020 spring in the northeast and a stable buck to doe ratio.  An estimated buck to doe ratio or 23:100 in 2019.  In 2020, deer were still recovering from the hard 2016-17 winter, reduced hunting to help deer and elk recover.  In 2019, the last woodland caribou in Washington and the contiguous United States was captures and shipped to a breeding facility in British Columbia.
    An increase in population for 2018 after several down years, but populations in eastern Washington are still recovering from the 2015 drought and outbreak of bluetongue.  Reduced hunting permits and no antlerless hunting for  whitetails in the east in 2019 after severe winters in 2016 and 2017.  The 2018 Big Game Report gives some regional population estimates for deer and elk.
     An  estimated at 300,000 to 320,000 deer in 2014 according to the Game Management Plan, p. 62 [PDF]. For 2015, an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 blacktails and about the same 90,000 to 100,000 mule deer.  Deer and elk tags were reduced for the 2017-18 hunt in eastern parts of the state because the hard winter of 2016-17.  A hard winter in 2015-16 also reduced deer and elk populations.  An outbreak of bluetongue in 2015, drought, and wildfires reduced deer populations.  
    Whitetail deer in Northeast Washington experienced major winters kills in the winters of '07 and '08.  White-tails predominate in the northeast, mule deer in the southeast. With the decline of logging and new forest management practices, the deer population has declined by about 40 percent in some parts of the Southwest since 2002, mostly blacktails; numbers are stronger in the interior Southwest.   Another major factor reducing deer habitat is the conversion of farm and forest lands into residential development and reduced alfalfa and cereal production [Deer Status Report, 2014, PDF].  Efforts are ongoing to support the few remaining Columbian white-tailed deer, once thought to be extinct.  2015 Draft Mule Deer Management Plan
     The 2013 total deer harvest was 33,657 with 27,448 antlered deer and 6,209 antlerless deer taken with a hunter success rate of 27.2 percent.The antlerless harvest rose from 15.7% of the total in 1998 to 25.6 percent in 2012.  Harvest Statistics   The total deer harvest in 2012 was similar to 1997, with a recent peak in the early 2000's at around 40,000.  Whitetail deer are about 35 percent of the harvest and are more numerous in the northeast, mule deer are found in the higher elevations, blacktails found along the coast are about 32 percent of the harvest.  The management goal for mule deer is 15 to 19 bucks per 100 does after hunting (Plan, see p. 3).  The low buck to doe ratio has been suspected as a factor in their decline.
    The killing of two fawns taken from a rehabilitation center by WDFW resulted in public outcry in 2018.
    Disease:  The first case of Adenovirus Hemorrhagic disease (AHD) in 2017.  A blue tongue outbreak in 2015.  Outbreaks of AHD in 2020 in the north and in 2021 among deer in the San Juan Islands and Skagit County.
    History:  White-tail deer numbers were plentiful in in the 1800's, but were reduced by over hunting by the early 1900's.  Early explorers saw deer swimming between the San Juan Islands.  Indians were burning underbrush to improve deer habitat.  From the 2015 Draft Mule Deer Plan:  "Although records of historic mule deer population trends are limited, Julander and Low  reported a marked decline in populations due to severe weather during the winter of 1889. They also reported an increase in population between 1935 and 1968.  
     Mule deer populations apparently reached very low numbers in eastern Washington during 1969, 1971, and 1972, during unseasonably harsh winters. Mule deer populations increased from 1973 until the mid-1980s.  Deer hunter numbers and also probably deer population peaked in 1979, with a recent peak in the 1990s.    Drought conditions developed in eastern Washington starting in 1986, and then eased somewhat in the mid-1990s, and became more pronounced in the early 2000s."  Deer hunter numbers and also probably deer population peaked in 1979, with a recent peak in the 1990s.  
     Deer have been in the state since at least 4.9 million years ago, as documented by a recent deer bone recovered in Ellensberg.  Deer were thought to have crossed into North America using the Bering Sea land bridge.
    Moose  Between 4,000 and 6,000 in 2017.  The first confirmed moose sighting was made in Pend Oreille County in the early 1950s. Surveys in the early 1970s estimated a population of about 60 moose. The first hunting season was opened in 1977.  A research project north of Seattle has been tracking 67 female moose with radio collars to record survival rates.
    Cougar population in 2018 estimated between 1,900 to 2,100 animals, not counting kittens.  Sightings have increased over recent years.  Population estimated at 2,500 in 2015.
    Wolf  A minimum of  178 in 29 packs in 2020.  A minimum of 126 wolves in  2019 with an estimate of 200 wolves.  A minimum of 115 in 2018. The count at the end of 2016 was 115.  A minimum of 68 in 2014, up from 24 in 2010.

Report Poaching:  Information can be submitted anonymously:  Call the state Poaching Hotline, (877) 933-9847,  Email the tip to reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov

Other useful links:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  - 2016 Season Regulations
Mule deer Geodatabase     - Predator Ecology Lab
Blacktail Deer Society — IslandWood an outdoor education center on the 255 acres on Bainbridge Island 
I-90 Wildlife Watch is a citizen-based wildlife monitoring project that invites motorists to report wildlife sightings along Interstate 90 (I-90) in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington.
- List of Wildlife Rehabilitators, contact for information on injured deer
- Washington Prescribed Fire Council      - Washington Fish and Wildlife News