Massachusetts Deer Population:   A February, 2023, population estimate from of over 150,000 deer includes all areas of the state, the first total state estimate.  An estimate reported at the same time quoting MassWildlife put the number at about 95,000 which includes only the wildlife management zones where deer are hunted.  The deer population in hunted areas was estimated at over 95,000 in 2021, over 100,000 in 2020 and in 2019.  About 95,000 in early 2018, over 100,000 in mid-2018, 100,000 in 2017, and 90,000 in 2015.  In 2007 the state estimated 80,000 to 90,000 deer.  The 2023 population is about the same as in 2002.

Massachusetts Deer News

Deer swims across Cape Cod Canal, ‘attempting to avoid Cape traffic’ May 20, 2024 Massachusetts, The Boston Globe

... A white-tailed deer was seen swimming across the Cape Cod Canal early Friday morning, navigating the water with surprising skill... VIDEO 

Southwick police chief supports proposed hunting restrictions with caveat February 10, 2024 Massachusetts, MassLive

... supports a proposed bylaw to prohibit hunting without the landowner’s approval, he would recommend a survey of the town’s residents to get their feedback...

New regulations for hunting, fishing in Massachusetts in 2024 December 27, 2023 WWLP Springfield

. ... Massachusetts is now part of the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact (IWVC), meaning if a hunter’s license is suspended in another state part of the compact, their hunting license in Massachusetts will also be suspended and vise-versa...

Massachusetts lawmakers discuss proposed bill to allow deer hunting on Sunday November 29, 2023 WGGB

... a century-old ban ... In support of lifting the ban, the executive director of a non-profit organization supporting farmers ... There was also testimony in favor of expanding the hunting ban... “My family and I love walking through the woods but are always scared during hunting season,” ...

Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation in White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in New England: Evidence for Founder Effect on Nantucket Island - Northeastern Naturalist, November, 2023

... Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) currently number ∼3000 on Nantucket Island. No deer were seen on the island at the beginning of the 20th century. The historical record suggests that a single male deer was brought to the island in 1922, and that 2 female deer were brought to the island from Michigan in 1926... Our results indicate that most deer on Nantucket originated from 2 founding females from Michigan, and a small percentage are descended from later introductions from the New England mainland..,

Motorists warned as vehicle-deer collisions rise November 12, 2023 Massachusetts, Daily Hampshire Gazette

...There were 1,806 such collisions across the state from October to December 2022, surpassing the record set the previous year for the most crashes with deer in at least the past 20 years...

What you need to know about the 2023 Blue Hills Reservation Deer Hunt November 4, 2023 Massachusetts, YAHOO!News

... For the fourth year, archery will be the only form of hunting allowed ... The hunt started in 2015 after a century of hunting being prohibited in the Blue Hills ... State wildlife officials estimate there are 26 deer per square mile in the reservation ... A forested area can sustain about 20 deer per square mile [15 to 28 is one estimate]

Deer harvest season starts on Oct. 16. Here's what you need to know October 14, 2023 Massachusetts,

... In the 1800s, the Massachusetts deer population was almost completely wiped out because of market hunting. The population of deer has largely recovered ...  northwestern and central-northern Massachusetts is increasing more rapidly than the rest of the region... the number of deer hunters through the last decade has remained consistent between 40,000 and 50,000 ..,

Natick, Mass Audubon culling white-tailed deer population at Natick's Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary October 12, 2023 Massachusetts, Natick Report

...  The past few years, about 10 deer have been taken through the hunting program. This time around the goal is 15, McCue says.  A new deer headcount is planned for next year or the year after...

What's behind the abundance of acorns in Massachusetts this year? October 12, 2023 CBS News

... Some years oak trees will drop all of their acorns together at the same time. It's an evolutionary process that works to overwhelm predators by covering the ground with acorns. The hope is that some survive becoming food if they all fall at once..,

These Massachusetts towns see the most deer crashes October 12, 2023 CBS News

... The towns that saw the most deer collisions from October to December of 2022 were: 1. Middleboro (48)  2. Taunton (39)  3. Westport (29)  4. Swansea (28)  5. Rehoboth (22)  6. East Bridgewater/Seekonk (20)  7. Freetown (19)  8.Acushnet/Plymouth/Wareham (18)

DCR Announces 2023 Deer Management Plan for Blue Hills Reservation September 22, 2023 Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation

... conducted annual controlled hunts in the Blue Hills Reservation since 2015. Like previous years, the 2023 management plan will allow permitted archery hunting in 2,622 acres of the over 7,000 acres of parkland within the reservation ...

Boaters rescue young deer from ocean off South Shore of Massachusetts August 30, 2023 Massachusetts, WCVB Channel 5 Boston

... about a mile off the coast ... The men discovered that it was a deer that was in distress, so they pulled the struggling animal from the water ...

MassWildlife considers extending archery deer hunting season August 2, 2023 Massachusetts, WWLP-22News

... in Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) one through nine, which includes western Massachusetts ... A proposed regulatory amendment looks to extend the starting date to two weeks earlier, meaning the season would begin on the eighth Monday before Thanksgiving...

Baby deer rescued from tank at Brockton’s water treatment plant July 11, 2023 Massachusetts, MassLive

... The deer, estimated to be no more than 2 months old, jumped into the tank with water about 15 feet high, said the animal control’s Facebook post...

White-tailed deer blood shown to kill bacteria that causes Lyme disease March 30, 2023 Massachusetts,

... The study, published recently in the journal Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases, demonstrates that the blood of the white-tailed deer kills the corkscrew-shaped bacterium that causes Lyme disease, a potentially debilitating illness... "We've known for some time that ticks taken from white-tailed deer are not infected ...

Massachusetts data:  The state reported an estimate of over 150,000 deer in February, 2023, "with a minimum late winter estimate at about 160,000 deer."  A press report at the same time puts the number at 95,000.  The higher number represents the first "state wide abundance estimate" while the lower number includes only deer in wildlife management areas open for hunting and did not include some non-forested areas.  The chart below provides previous state estimates for wildlife management areas then adds a 68 percent adjustment factor (adding 68% of 95,000 gives the total of 160,000) as a rough estimate to get historic population estimates.  In 2023 about 19 deer per square mile for the state.

Data for the chart below.  

Lots of acorns in 2023 which often reduces hunting success as deer search less for food. The number of deer hunters has remained constant over the last 10 years at 40,000 to 50,000.  A 2023 study indicates that the 3,0000 deer on Nantucket island are primarily descendant from 2 females introduced from Michigan in 1926 when there were no deer the island

Drought was stressing deer in 2022.  Reported MassWildlife estimates for hunted areas of the state of over 95,000 deer in 2021.   About 100,000 deer in 2020 and 2019, about 95,000 deer in early 2018, over 100,000 later in 2018, and 100,000 deer in 2017, up from about 90,000 deer (85,000 to 95,000) in 2015.  A hard 2014-15 winter reduced survival.   Population growth in the central  western regions.  Some of the increase in the number of deer killed in the 2018-19 hunt was due to the opening of Wachusett Reservoir Public Land, a two-week extension of the archery season, and a poor acorn crop.  

The graph below shows the annual deer kill from the hunt for 1966 to 2021.  Source Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Some hunters attribute the trend in lower deer harvests from 2002 to 2016 to fewer deer although the state has attributed some of the decline to weather conditions during hunting season. Deer had been on the decline in the western part of the state and the WDFW issued fewer antlerless deer permits in 2013 with about the same number issues for 2014.   From 30 to 50 percent of the fawns die each year, 20 to 35 percent killed by predators.  Coyotes take about 25 percent of all fawns.  

Overall, deer numbers are near target levels - below target in the West, but above target in the East near the New York border and east to Ashby and Westminster.  Deer numbers are very low in Cape Cod as a result of extensive development, lack of good habitat and nutrition, and deer-vehicle collisions.  Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket have higher deer densities. 

A deer estimate population of at least 85,000 in 2010, 80,000 to 90,000.  A state estimate of 80,000 to 90,000 in 2007.  

In 1898 Massachusetts closed the whole state to deer hunting. The deer population that had reached a low of 5,000 around the year 1900, rebounded to 10,000 to 15,000 by 1908.  Hunters registered for the first time in 1909.  A 2023 study indicates that the 3,0000 deer on Nantucket island are primarily descendant from 2 females introduced from Michigan in 1926 when there were was only one other deer the island introduced in 1922.

 About 8,000 deer killed annually by vehicles, 10,000 by hunters.

Moose, between 1,000 and 2,000 in 2015, concentrated in northern Worcester County and the southern Berkshires. 1,000 -1,500 in 2009.

Coyotes, around 10,000 in the state in 2016, not native, arrived in the 1950s.

Useful links:

- Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game