Iowa Deer Population:  For 2023, the state estimates about 450,000 deer pre-hunt and 350,000 post-hunt.  An estimated 478,000 deer in 2021, stable to slightly increasing in 2022 and 2023.  About 445,000 deer in 2020, down from 460,000 in 2019, and 475,000 deer in 2018.  A downward deer population trend from 2006, but about stable in 2015 after a mild winter and early spring, and into 2017.  Starting in 2014, a reduced number of antlerless licenses were issued to help stabilize the herd. The population peaked at about 650,000 in 2006.  Herd analysis at right. 

Iowa Deer News

Dog and deer wander together through Iowa town May 3, 2024 Iowa,  UPI News on 

... The Tipton Police Department posted photos to Facebook showing the dog and deer strolling together in locations including a block of businesses and the city courthouse...

Penalties For Trespassing To Hunt In Iowa Are Going Up April 24, 2024 Iowa, KIWA Radio

... The trespasser can be arrested and officers will be able to confiscate animals from hunters who trespass on private property — and assess more fines based on how many animals the hunter has taken ...

Senate kills nuisance deer bill over worries about youth hunting March 11, 2024 Iowa, Clinton Herald

...  House File 2484 passed the House ... would allow those with special depredation licenses to hunt during the January season — even in counties with low deer populations ... Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, said its important for deer to be undisturbed before the youth season, for fear of chasing them away...

From squirrel to deer: Iowa hunters review season, share concerns with state officials February 21, 2024 Iowa, KMTV

... The deer population has been relatively low in Iowa since 2012.... Wildlife biologist Matt Dollison says the deer population isn't rebounding the way they'd like to see. He called it "a bit of a mystery" and says there might be several reasons..,

Deadly Diseases – The Iowa Deer Herd Drops January 18, 2024 Iowa, The Tack Online

...  You can definitely see a big decrease in the deer population. It’s just everywhere you go... EHD or epizootic hemorrhagic disease has had a relatively short history in the state, with the first reported case being in 2012 ... We’re not necessarily seeing CWD effect here at the population level yet, but it’s basically inevitable that we’ll get there at some point...

Jones County sees first chronic wasting disease case January 18, 2024 Iowa, east central iowa news

... the deer was an adult buck harvested in December, adding that adult bucks “are the most likely demographic class to test positive ... , the infected deer was harvested within a half mile of the Dubuque County line and within 5 miles of a cluster of positives that have emerged since 2020 ..,

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease kills over 100 deer in Clayton County December 20, 2023 Iowa, Cedar Rapids KCRG-TV

... “This disease, as far as our records are concerned, impacted deer in a very small, local area, but it impacted them quite heavily... almost all of those reports came from a fairly small area of just a few square miles.” ...

An uncommon sight: Wild elk spotted in central Iowa December 15, 2023 The Des Moines Register

... "It's not as unusual as it used to be. We've got, I think, as many as three or four in the state in different locations right now." [Craig Lonneman, a conservation officer in Madison County] ... Elk were once abundant in Iowa  ... captive herds remain ..,

Chronic Wasting Disease 'greatest threat' to Iowa's deer herd says biologist December 8, 2023 Iowa, KMTV

... “I would consider Chronic Wasting Disease to be the greatest threat that the Iowa deer herd faces...  it’s going to likely increase in prevalence to a point where it eventually will affect population dynamics.” [Iowa Department of Natural Resources deer biologist, Jace Elliott, see video below

Iowa deer hunters will be out and about  December 2, 2023 Times Republican

... the archery takeoff and the gun takeoff will be close to 100,00 harvests... The remaining deer population that remains is fully capable of replacing what hunters took off the land. An estimate of the overall population of deer at the end of all seasons will be about 350,000 animals, plus or minus..,

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease outbreak affecting Iowa's whitetail deer population Deember 3, 2023 Iowa, YAHOO!News

... Epizootic hemorrhagic disease is caused by a virus that is spread by the bites of tiny flies ... So far this year, those bites have resulted in 1,876 suspected EHD deaths in Iowa’s whitetail deer, predominantly in the far southeastern part ..,

First of Iowa’s popular gun deer hunting seasons opens Dec. 2 November 21, 2023 Iowa DNR News

... Iowa’s deer population is stable to slightly increasing across much of the state, with the exception of certain parts of northwest, west central and southwest Iowa... In 2022, hunters reported harvesting 109,600 deer and Elliott is predicting a similar harvest this year..,

Climate Change Now November 20, 2023 Iowa,

... You can definitely see a big decrease in the deer population. It’s just everywhere you go, I’ve been talking to farmers and just in Harrison and Crawford County it’s over 75 deer dead, just found... over 1600 cases, that’s 1,600 of EHD, or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, had been reported ...  While deer have demonstrated the ability to bounce back from EHD, the slower spread of Chronic Wasting Disease has shown steady growth ..,

Iowa DNR To Hold Virtual Public Meeting On Chronic Wasting Disease November 18, 2023 KIWA Radio

... scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29th and will be held via Zoom. You can register at this link: ... as of November 14th, 263 wild deer have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in 16 Iowa counties..,

Deer disease surges in Southeast Iowa after drought October 29, 2023 Iowa, Southeast Iowa Union

... Hundreds of dead deer have been spotted in Southeast Iowa over the last month ...  Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD... spreads between deer through culicoides midges: small, mosquito-like flies that bite animals to feed on blood. The mortality rate of the virus in white-tailed deer is as high as 90% ..,

Hundreds of deer fall to Iowa’s most widespread outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease October 26, 2023 Iowa, The Gazette

... The most widespread and third-most severe outbreak on record ... The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has received 1,074 reports of suspected EHD-related deer deaths so far this year ... reports span 68 of Iowa’s 99 counties ..,

Several Elk In Iowa Currently October 20, 2023 KASI-AM

...  the time of year when the adult male elk wander, seeking a mate and sometimes they'll make it into Iowa... sightings are becoming more common, likely because of growing herds in both Minnesota and Wisconsin...

Deer stuck in Halloween bucket in SE Cedar Rapids October 20, 2023 Iowa,

... a deer is running around, trapped in a Halloween pumpkin bucket.  Cedar Rapids resident Taylor Fields says she saw the deer two times within the past week. She says she's concerned about the deer getting food and water...

Urban deer hunt underway in Fort Dodge October 19, 2023 Iowa, Messenger News

... This hunt, the first one to be held in the city ... complaints over the years about deer gobbling up gardens and running into streets, nearly causing crashes... There was public opposition to the hunt, and final approval of it came on a 4-3 council vote... 

Iowa deer population slightly increasing October 3, 2023 Iowa DNR News

... The results of Iowa’s annual spring spotlight survey indicate the population has slightly increased over the last several years, said Elliott, who coordinates the project.   “Our estimates can be variable from year to year, but for the past several years, the population has been relatively stable,” he said.  He said the deer data shows statewide trends are stable to slightly increasing..,

Iowa DNR Confirms Sighting of Mountain Lion in Indianola September 8, 2023 Iowa, KNIA KRLS Radio

... The Iowa DNR has a confirmed sighting of a Mountain Lion that was seen in the northwest portion of Indianola this week, the second such sighting of a big cat in the last two years..,

Iowa data:   In 2024 a wildlife biologist noted the deer population has been low since 2012 and that it is a mystery why the population isn't rebounding.  In 2023, the state estimated the pre-hunt deer population at about 450,000 with about 100,000 expected to be taken during the hunting seasons for a post-hunt population of 350,000.  The 2023 spotlight deer survey declined by 9.1 percent and was about the same as in 2020. The 2023 hunter survey reported that 44 percent reported seeing fewer deer over the past five years while 20 percent reported seeing more deer. 

The deer herd is reported to be stable slightly increasing into 2023 and in 2022 with a rough estimate of 500,000 for 2022. The state deer biologist said in early 2023 that the population is about at the level of the mid-1990s, the management objective, and has been there for years.  An outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in 2023 reduced populations and there were other reports of a general population decline.  

The 2021 survey observed 4 percent more deer in 2021 compared to 2019 after a 3 percent decline in 2020 from 2019 which accounts for the estimate of 478,000 deer in 2021 and 445,000 deer for 2020.  The state comments that the population was about the same in 2021 with a slow upward trend in the northcentral and northwest portions of the state, a result of reduced hunting pressure.   An increase in the number of hu ters in the field in 2020 was attributed to the Covid outbreak keeping people at home with more time to hunt.

A 2020-2021 report concludes "statewide, the deer herd declined from 2006-2013, stabilized from 2013-2017, and has been slightly increasing since 2017."  The deer kill fell by 7.3 percent in 2019, after a hard 2018-19 winter and an EHD outbreak, while the number of hunting licenses purchased fell by 3 percent for a population estimate of about 460,000 in 2019.

A rough estimate from the state of 500,000 deer in 2018 with lower numbers in the northwest and higher numbers in the south and along the Mississippi river. More details.  The analysis explained below from various sources puts the deer population at about 475,000 for 2018, or in the range of around 500,000.  Restrictions on hunting anterless deer were placed on counties in the northwest to allow the population to recover for several years prior to 2021.  Graphics showing the results of the deer hunt from 1995 to 2020 are at the bottom of this column.

A 2018 Iowa population report (p,4) estimates the deer herd "is slightly increasing in 2018."   Research published in 2019 estimated these average deer populations for the state for 2013-2017 using three different models.  Averaging the three models for each year gives these estimates:  432,534 in 2012, 479,363 in 2013, 421,765 in 2014, 447,941 in 2015, 455,225 in 2016 and 440,356 in 2017.  Interpreting graphical information from the state's 2018 report indicates about an 8 percent increase in the pre-fawn deer population, for a 2018 population of about 475,000.  

Preliminary harvest data fell by more than 10 percent in 2019, but the spotlight survey for 2019 showed in increase of about 8 percent.  Comments from state agents indicate a stable to declining population in 2019 after an outbreak of EHD in central Iowa reduced the herd somewhat.  A 3 percent decline is used to reconcile this information for a rough estimate of 460,000 deer in 2019.  

A downward trend into 2016 from 2006 when state lawmakers instructed the DNR to reduce the deer population.   About stable in 2015 after a mild winter and early spring.  In 2014, the state issued 10,000 fewer antlerless deer licenses in an effort to stabilize the population, no antlerless licenses in the northwest where deer populations have fallen dramatically.  DNR maintained reduced antlerless licenses numbers for 2015, 2016 and 2017 to stabilize the population.   The state issued a document around 2017 estimating the after hunt population at 400,000.  

A state estimate of 435,000 deer in 2013, the deer herd had been on a planned decline since 2002. The long winter of 2013-14 further reduced the herd into 2014. Drought and EHD accelerated the decline in 2012.   An estimate of 470,000 in 2010 and 13,000 in 1953.  An estimate of 500,000 in 2009.

Iowa’s deer population peaked at about 650,000 in 2006 (data are all before the hunt).  By 2014 the deer population had fallen back to levels of the 1990's.  The 2015 population was about 33 percent below the 2009 population.  The 2014 harvest was 39 percent below 2006 peak.   In 1997 an estimated population of 300,000 deer after the 1996 harvest of over 100,000 deer. In 1990 about 200,000 whitetail deer in the state.

Chronic Wasting Disease  A couple of cases in captive herds - one in Davis county in 2012.  Later, 284 of the 356 captive deer at the Davis County hunting operation tested positive. The first wild deer tested positive in 2013 in Allamakee County, followed by three in 2014, two in 2015, twelve in 2016, and eight in 2017.  In the 2018-19 hunting season, 14 cases.  A total of 46 by early fall 2019 with two captive deer farms testing positive in late 2019.  For the 2019-2020 hunting season 43 tested positive out of about 7,000 tested.  A total of 91 positives by late 2020.  For the 2020-21 season, 21 new positives for a total of 111.  For the 2021-22 season, 36 positives from some 5,000 deer samples with two new counties, Greene County in central Iowa and Fremont County in southwest Iowa,  bringing the total number of counties to 12.  For the 2022-23 season 96 deer tested positive out of about 5,000 tested.  As of August, 2023, 260 deer have tested positive in 16 Iowa counties since 2013.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease  In 2023 the most wide spread outbreak, first reported in Iowa in 2012.

History  White-tailed deer were reported to be abundant when European settlers arrived in Iowa in the early 1800's.  Clearing and cultivating of land for agriculture initially improved habitat, but over hunting for food and hides rapidly reduced deer numbers. By 1880 deer were rarely sighted and in 1898 the deer season was closed. Deer had been virtually eliminated from all parts of the state by 1900.  Around 1900, someone opened the gate on a pen that held 32 deer, helping the deer recovery in Iowa.

The herd was rebuilt by trapping and relocating deer from other states, and by natural immigration.  In 1936 there were only 500 to 700 deer in the state.  A 1947 survey put the number at 1,650.  By 1950, about 10,000 deer.  When hunting resumed in 1953 there were around 12,000 to 15,000 deer.  Another 1953 estimate of 12,632. 


      Population Estimates

Year          Winter        Maximum

                Population     Fall Pop.

1954         11,892          20,395

1955         10,684          18,323

1956         10,821          18,558

1957         10,294          17,654

1958         10,643          18,253

1959         11,726          20,110

1960         13,101          22,468

1961         14,155          24,276

1962         15,957          27,366

Source: Status and Management of the White-tailed Deer in Iowa, 1954-1962

Population estimates for 1990 to 2007

In 1987 Iowa made it illegal to kill white deer. 

Population estimates:  1940:  1,000.   1950:  4,500.    1960:  22,468.     1968:  38,000

Elk were eliminated in Iowa by 1871 as a result of over hunting and habitat loss.  Iowa has no wild elk herds but elk are seen when they escape from private farms where they are considered "alternative livestock."  Elk sighted in 2016 and 2023.

Mountain Lions were eradicated from Iowa around 1900, one female returned and was shot in 2017, then another spotted on a trail camera.  Confirmed sightings in 2022 and 2023.


Turn In Poachers (TIP):   (800) 532-2020

Graphics below from the Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2020-2021, Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  September 2021