A Guide to Making an Urban Deer Management Plan

This page follows a representative sequence used by communities across the country who have considered urban deer management. Most communities are responsible for local management of deer, subject to hunting and other state restrictions. Issues are typically raised in city council meetings or are reported to police or animal control.

Deer Issues: Three issues are most often cited as local problems requiring deer control, click on the following links for information related to each of these issues:
Damage to plants -- Deer Resistant Plants, Repellents, and Fencing
Deer vehicle collisions and transportation safety
Lyme disease
Non-Lethal Control Methods

How many deer are too many deer? The biological carrying capacity of an suburban area can be more than 100 deer per square mile, so the health of the deer is rarely at issue. Surveys can help assess the desired deer density. A wide range of unsupported optimal deer density information can confuse the deer management decision.  Many communities have no defined goals and keep no statistics. 
Surveys of citizens:  Methods include mail surveys, internet surveys, or most often city council meetings. A random sample mailed to the survey group may provide the best estimate of overall group sentiment. Studies show that surveys done via the internet or by a general public invitation tend to attract responses from individuals with strong opinions and so may overestimate the divide in a community. Surveys of deer: Methods include aerial, by driving around, by citizen contribution. Suburban deer population model.

Living with Deer
Non-Lethal Deer Population Control for Urban Deer Population Control The latest news and information on urban deer management tools and approaches.
An article written [PDF] by Laura Simon, a nationally recognized expert on urban deer management, is included as a link to a PDF file at the bottom of this page.
Washington state’s Living with Deer website
Colorado state's website about Living with Wildlife
Massachusetts' webste Living with Deer (http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/living/living_with_deer.htm).
Mankato, Minnesota. Living with Deer. Citizens are encouraged to go out on the town for a photographic shoot and contest.

Measure the desired change.
Adaptive Resource Management, a popular scientific approach to wildlife management proposes that results of programs should be evaluated based on objective measurements of the desired results, such as reduced plant damage, vehicle accidents, or tick-borne disease.

Population Control [News updates and more information on population control]
Sharpshooting is typically about $500 per deer, but costs as low as $100 per deer have been reported. Deer fertility will increase in response to the increased available food supply. Moderate hunting has been shown to have no long-term effect on deer populations, so a town with a moderate cull each year will end up with about the same amount of deer as if they had no cull. For example, Williamsburg, Virginia, has been culling about 70 deer per year since 1993, and recently increased their cull to about 120 - no long-term effect on the population.

Studies show that immunoncontraception leads to a rapid reduction in deer population of 30-40 percent in 3 years. In 5-6 years, that number reaches goal levels of 80-90 percent reduction. Contraception typically costs from $261 to $513 per doe for the first year, but falls to $88 to $103 in subsequent years. Contraception costs of $1,000 have been reported, but this reflects mostly labor costs of handling and tagging the deer when required. The contraceptive dart and drug can be purchased for about $25. Sterilization costs typically are about $750 per deer, but can be reduced by using local veterinarians who may volunteer. One advantage of contraception and sterilization is that local does remain and defend their territory, discouraging new deer from migrating in from other areas. This benefit is typically ignored in community costs analysis.

Fencing: Increasing the fenced area in a community will reduce habitat and deer density. Local ordinances relating to fencing will play a role in designing the urban ecosystem. One serious hazard for deer in suburban areas is spike fence, often impaling jumping deer. This page about spiked and other fence hazards contains a few videos and reports illustrating how bad the problem can be.

Targeting the Deer Cull: Most deer culls randomly eliminate deer, but some communities, such as in Rapid City, South Dakota and Moberly, Missouri focus on problem deer and problem areas.
 Individual deer exhibit a wide variety of behaviors and physical characteristics. Selecting problem deer will reduce these traits in future populations. For example, deer size is correlated to transportation damage and risk of injury. Smaller deer reduce the risk. Each deer favor different plants for food.

Dogs for Deer Management:  Two Canadian cities, Banff and Waterton, are using dogs to manage their deer populations. Waterton is a popular tourist destination, known for its friendly deer that walk the streets, but a few deer have become too assertive. At first, these deer were marked by being shot with paint guns, then removed from town - but they came back. More recently, a team of border collies is driven through the town a few times a day to manage the herd. Dogs for Deer Management

Too many deer? How to manage urban deer - Tips from a Wildlife Biologist - October 6, 2019

Deer Friendly Urban Deer Management presentation to Urban Wildlife Conference, download a powerpoint (4.2 MB download) version or open a pdf version.

Deer Management in Local Communities [PDF Slide Presentation] July, 2011, Brent Rudolph. Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Subpages (1): Fence Danger
Deer Friendly,
Sep 23, 2012, 7:29 PM