Pennsylvania Deer Population:   An estimated deer population of around 1.5 million in 2024, down slightly in 2023 to about 1.45 as a result of drought in some areas.  The state reported an estimated population of about 1.5 million whitetail deer in 2017 with press reports that the population was at this level into 2023. Drought in 2023 has reduced populations in some areas.  The population is up a bit from 1.4 million in 2015, and about 1.3 million in 2014.  A decline in the 2018 buck harvest indicates a population decline for that year.  In 2013 about 1.5 million deer and 1.2 million in 2010.  A pre-hunt population estimate of 1.523 million deer in 20002021-22 Deer Population ReportElk Cam

Pennsylvania Deer News

CWD Changes Announced for 2024-25 Seasons June 13, 2024 Pennsylvania, PGC News

... The Pennsylvania Game Commission today announced the expansion of several Chronic Wasting Disease Management Areas (DMAs) due to new detections of the disease... While the antlerless harvest has increased in some WMUs with CWD over the past five years, the overall harvest in these WMUs has not been sufficient to reduce populations. Typically, the antlerless allocation is increased to meet a harvest target, however, some WMUs with CWD have reached a point of saturation where a further increase in antlerless licenses is unlikely to achieve the needed harvest...

Reflections in Nature: It’s time of the year where state’s deer herd population declines June 4, 2024 Pennsylvania, Williamsport Sun-Gazette

... The reason for the peak during the last week of May and the first week of June is due to most of the fawns are born at that time. During the remainder of the year, natural depreciation occurs as more deer die from predators, road kills, etc.,... 

Pittsburgh expands deer-culling program to 5 parks June 4, 2024 Pennsylvania,

... City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a contract of up to roughly $99,000 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help oversee this year’s deer management program —nearly 10 times what the city spent last year on a pilot program...

Chronic Wasting Disease in Pennsylvania Deer: The Rising Threat and Implications June 3, 2024 MyChesCo on MSN

... Results from the increased sampling around detection zones were encouraging, with no new CWD-positive deer identified. However, Korman warns that because of the continued increase and spread of CWD, extended firearms seasons are imminent in some affected areas where harvest goals were not met...

Bow hunting in Philly could begin as soon as this fall May 28, 2024 Pennsylvania, WHYY

...  Members of the Somerton Civic Association wrote to the Game Commission earlier this month, calling for the planned hunt to be postponed indefinitely.  “Its use by neighbors who include some too young to look out for their own safety make it an unwise location to open to hunting,” SCA president Chris Bordelon wrote ...

Game Commission Updates Public on CWD Surveillance and Research May 28, 2024 Pennsylvania Game Commission News

... Since July 1, 2023, the Game Commission has collected nearly 11,000 CWD samples from deer. Hunter harvested samples made up the bulk of those with over 7,000.  CWD was detected in a total of 291 of those hunter-harvested deer. To date, over 440 deer have tested positive for CWD in the 2023-2024 sampling year, up from 426 CWD-positive samples in 2022-23..,

Juveniles accused in Pennsylvania deer "poaching spree" May 8, 2024 CBS News on MSN

... Throughout the alleged poaching spree, the Game Commission said the juveniles killed 10 deer, shooting them at night from a vehicle while using a spotlight...

PA's 2023-24 deer harvest report! April 19, 2024  Sullivan County Democrat

... Hunters harvested an estimated 430,010 white-tailed deer. The statewide buck harvest was estimated at 171,600, while antlerless harvest was estimated at 258,410.  The overall harvest is two percent greater than that from 2022-23 ... The buck harvest was up in 2023-24 by five percent over the season previous .., [the full report]

Crop Damage, Sunday Hunting Bills Debated at PA House Hearing April 19, 2024 Pennsylvania, Lancaster Farming

... House Bill 2107 streamlines the regulations faced by farmers regarding deer shot for crop damage by allowing the carcasses to be transported directly to a processor without waiting for a game warden to pick them up...

Change made to antlerless deer license system to 'guarantee' availability in most of Pa,  April 12, 2024 Pennsylvania, USA Today

... Pennsylvania deer hunters in 19 of the 22 Wildlife Management Units will be guaranteed the ability to get an antlerless deer license if they are purchased early in the process.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission is changing the timing to purchase an antlerless license ...

Pa. House considering bills to expand Sunday hunting  April 10, 2024 Pennsylvania,

... Estimates for the population of white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania vary, largely falling around 1.5 million over recent years. Game Commission data shows a post-hunt population exceeding 1.3 million in 19 of the 22 wildlife management units that divide the state. Data was unavailable for three of the units...

Deer Hunting in Pennsylvania: Understanding the 2023-24 Harvest Results April 1, 2024 MyChesCo on MSN

... Overall, an impressive 27% of deer hunters harvested a buck. This represents a symbolic increase from the previous 26% success rate observed in 2022-23 and a marked rise from the 15% observed as recently as 2007-08... these numbers show that we’re managing deer and their habitat in ways that are sustainable over the long haul..,

Annual buck harvest numbers up, but antlerless deer remain flat March 29, 2024 Pennsylvania, Yahoo! Sports

...Hunters in Pennsylvania harvested 5% more bucks and about the same number of antlerless deer over the 2023-24 hunting seasons  ... the statewide buck harvest is estimated at 171,600 and the antlerless harvest is estimated at 258,410. The combined total of 430,010 deer is 2% greater than the 2022-23 seasons..,

Pennsylvania Game Commission Delivers Annual Report March 20, 2024 PGC News

... an estimated 422,960 white-tailed deer were harvested during the 2022-23 season. ... When it comes to bucks, in particular, more than 60% of those taken are 2 ½ years old or older, thanks mainly to antler point restrictions, which a recent survey showed are supported by over 70% of our hunters... To view a copy of the agency’s annual legislative report, please visit and click on the link under “About Us” on the homepage..,

Deer Cull at Norristown Farm Park: Balancing Wildlife and Community Safety March 18, 2024 Pennsylvania,  MyChesCo

... The annual cull, in place since 2005 ...Residents with questions or concerns about the upcoming deer cull are encouraged to contact the Norristown Farm Park office at (610) 270-0215 ...

Neighbors work together to free deer from plastic jug stuck on its head March 13, 2024 Pennsylvania, Yahoo

... state game wardens came to the woods near his home four times ... Lisa and Matt Mertz became the deer’s saviors...  I’m not sure if it would’ve survived another day ...

     Deer with plastic stuck on its head wandering around North Hills March 11, 2024 Pennsylvania, KDKA-AM Radio Pittsburgh on MSN

... the doe has been wandering around the area for over two weeks... the Game Warden nearly caught it on Sunday but came up short... it’s definitely not getting food ...

Unusual miniature white tail deer seen running with other ‘misfit’ deer in Pennsylvania March 5, 2024 Pennsylvania, Erie Times-News on MSN

... a small deer that has a unique genetic condition ... It has shorter legs than other deer... one that was wounded ... “She has a bad hobble ...There’s a three-legged one there, they’re all just hanging out, they’re misfits,” ... 

Pennsylvania man accused of using drone to recover dead deer found guilty February 23, 2024, fox431

... "It would appear that from the top down the PGC doesn’t have a uniform position on the difference between 'hunting' and 'recovery' of game animals," ... 

Unraveling the Mystery: How Deer Poop Holds the Key to Tackling Chronic Wasting Disease February 21, 2024 Pennsylvania, Vet Candy

... By collecting and analyzing samples from both CWD-positive and -negative deer, scientists have uncovered a crucial link between gut bacteria and the presence of the disease. Anna Kashina, a professor of biochemistry at Penn Vet, underscores the significance of this discovery: "For the first time, we have a noninvasive tool for detecting CWD and gaining insights into its biology."  The study, published in Microbiology Spectrum ...

Duo fined $7k total for illegally shooting deer from car: Pa. Game Commission January 22, 2024 Pennsylvania, Penn Live

... The pair shot the deer from a vehicle, with the headlights on, the commission said. The pair then attempted to take the animal to a taxidermist the next day with last year’s tag on it...

PA says no to drone deer recovery! January 19, 2024 Pennsylvania, Sullivan County Democrat

... Travis Lau, communications director for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said, “The Commission considers drones to be electronic devices, which are prohibited for hunting. Even if the deer being searched for by a drone is dead ... the act of searching for it we consider to be in the act of hunting.” ...

If this bill takes off, hunters could use drones to recover game in Pennsylvania January 16, 2024 Pennsylvania, WESA

... Coleman’s bill would amend Title 34 of the state Consolidated Statutes, which governs hunting rules. More specifically it would amend the 2018 decision to allow dogs in the use of recovery to also allow drones and other electronic devices...

Chester County man faces three months in jail for using a drone to recover a hunter’s deer January 16, 2024 Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Inquirer

... the game commissions issued four citations against Downingtown resident Joshua Wingenroth during an undercover operation ... charged with two counts of unlawful devices and methods and one count each of disturbance of game and wildlife ...

Should Pa. hunters be allowed to track wounded deer with drones? January 10, 2024 Pennsylvania, Penn Live

...  The dog is allowed under Pennsylvania Game Commission law; the drone is not... state Sen. Jarrett Coleman sees little difference between the two methods for recovery of game and has decided to pursue amending the law to make drone use permissible...

Drone Operator Charged for Recovering Deer, a Legal Gray Area January 1, 2023 Pennsylvania

... A Pennsylvania drone operator running a small business recovering lost deer for hunters was charged by the state’s Game Commission with multiple citation ... including two counts of unlawful devices and methods, one count of disturbance of game and wildlife, and another for recreational spotlighting. The charges total up to $2,500 in fines and potentially include 90 days in jail...

Pa.'s 2023 bear season the lowest in 15 years; here's how many bears hunters harvested December 31, 2023 Pennsylvania, Lancaster Online

... Prior to the start of the 2023 season, the Game Commission estimated there were about 15,000 bears in Pennsylvania... hunters tagged 2,914 bears ..,

Pa. to receive grant funding for development of wildlife corridors December 7, 2023 Pennsylvania Capital-Star

... Pennsylvania will receive $840,000 as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program to develop a strategic plan for wildlife crossings, or corridors, across the Commonwealth’s roadways...

PGC Advocates Deer Slaughter December 7, 2023 Pennsylvania, Morrisons Cove Herald

... Northcentral Pennsylvania’s public lands host only a remnant deer herd compared to that which existed prior to 2002 when the present deer management plan was instituted. Around here, portions of state game lands are destitute of deer. Posted properties are the salvation of Pennsylvania’s deer herd..,

Pittsburgh archers have culled more than five dozen deer in Frick and Riverview parks November 27, 2023 Pennsylvania, 90.5 WESA

... hunters had taken 64 deer as of mid-November.  Those were the early results of pilot program to manage the deer population. The city rushed to launch the hunt with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sept. 30 — a timeframe short enough that hunting even began before the city finished posting signs to alert residents...

Rifle Deer Season Starts Tomorrow November 24, 2023 Pennsylvania, PGC News

... The National Deer Association regularly ranks Pennsylvania the top state in the country for hunter density, with around 14.4 hunters per square mile reported in 2021. Only three other states hit double digits in that department, those being New York, Wisconsin and New Jersey.

Healthy balance is back in Pa. deer woods November 23, 2023 Pennsylvania, The Bradford Era

...Twenty-three years ago under the guidance of wildlife biologist Gary Alt, the Pennsylvania Game Commission encouraged and enabled hunters to harvest more antlerless deer to allow forests to recover some of its natural deer habitat. It worked. Deer numbers were down from 2005 to 2012 with lower levels of deer than most people or hunters saw in the past 70 to 80 years in this area..,

Deer Season Awaits Pennsylvania Hunters November 20, 2023 PGC News

... Last season, in 2022-23, hunters harvested an estimated 422,960 white-tailed deer: an estimated 164,190 bucks and 258,770 antlerless deer. The buck harvest in particular – considered a good indicator of the overall deer population trend – was 2% higher than the most-recent three-year average, so right in line with recent trends..,

Deer with decorations wrapped around its antlers spotted in Pittsburgh-area November 14, 2023 Pennsylvania, CBS News

... The Game Commission said if the animal can still eat and doesn't get stuck in something, it's fine ... According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, there are about 1.5 million white-tailed deer in the state these days...

Can you feed deer in Pennsylvania? November 12, 2023 WHTM Harrisburg 

... The White-tailed Deer is the Pennsylvania state animal and around 1.5 million of them live in Pennsylvania... According to Pennsylvania Code § 137.33, “It is unlawful  ... feeding bear or elk ... The Pennsylvania Game Commission also asks residents to not feed deer (or any wildlife) due to the fact that it risks the spread of disease..,

Penn State study tracks deer habits, habitats November 2, 2023 Pennsylvania, The Daily Item

... It is a pretty good rule of thumb that the home range of a buck is probably one square mile, or 640 acres, and for a doe, it is a quarter of a square mile... based on 19 years of survival data. It reports that in one study area, “in 2 years, only about 20% of collared bucks are still alive,” but in another area, 42% are still alive after three years.” ...

Pennsylvania Deer News and Information Archive by Topic: Population and Management, Deer in the News, Disease, Suburban, Transportation, Deer Resistant Plants

Pennsylvania Data:  Estimates of around 1.5 million deer in 2024.  The 2023-24 deer kill from the hunt was up 2% over the previous year and the buck kill was up 5%.  The state reports in 2023 that populations are lower in some areas of the state as a result of drought.  A press article reports the population is estimated at 1.45 million in 2023.  The 2023-24 buck hunt increased by 5% with the overall deer kill up by 2%.  Hunter success was 27%, up from 26% last year and 15% in 2007-08.

 A 15.5% increase in antlerless deer licenses for the 2023 hunt to manage the population.  A reported 12% increase in the 2022-23 deer kill with the Supervisor noting: "We see generally stable population trends in most of the state, near goal levels..."  The buck harvest, an indicator of population changes, was up 2% in 2022-23.  Some 2022 and 2023 estimates in the press of 1.5 million deer. 

About 1.5 million deer in 2017 using information from the 2019-20 deer population report.  

The deer harvest was up by 2.6 percent from 2017 to 2021 with the hunter success rate about the same over that period, suggesting a small increase over the period as also indicated by the 2021-22 deer population report.  The buck harvest per square mile indicates an approximately stable deer population over the decade into 2021.  Pennsylvania has the highest density of hunters, reported at 14.4 per square mile in 2021.

Stable to increasing, about the same in 2020 and mostly stable in 2021.  The 12 percent increase in the deer kill for 2020 was partly attributed to an increase in licenses allocated.  The deer harvest returned to about trend levels in 2021, down 3.2 percent from 2019. The deer harvest rose by about 10 percent in 2018, but the buck harvest was down by 10 percent.  In 2019 deer populations were increasing in three of the 23 management units and stable in other units, doe tags were increased to 932,000 for 2020-21, up from 903,000 in 2019-20 and up from 838,000 in 2018.   A below average acorn crop in 2020.  2003 to 2009 population estimates

About 1.4 million deer in 2015, up from about 1.3 million in 2014 (estimated using harvest data).  Populations are generally stable to increasing in 2017 and stable in 2018.  A 7.5 percent increase in antlerless deer tags in 2017, 14 of 23 units were increased, significantly less that recommended by staff.  A 2017 EHD outbreak reduced populations in some areas, but the mild temperatures from the winter 2016-17 and a  good 2016 acorn crop have generally increased the deer population in 2017.  A 13 percent increase in antlerless tags for 2016 which designed to reduce the deer herd in two management units and maintain the herd in the other 20 units.  The 2016 deer population was stable to increasing in most regions of the state. About 550,000 deer hunters.

The hard winter in 2013-14 reduced populations that had generally been stable to increasing into 2013, about 1.5 million deer.   In 2014 and 2015, the Game Commission reduced doe deer licenses in an effort to grow the herd.   Under the deer management of Gary Alt, the Pennsylvania Game Commission allowed hunters to take more does which resulted in the lowest deer populations down from 2005 to 2012.

In 2011 an estimate of 1.5 million, another estimate of 1.6 million, and an estimate from the Pennsylvania Game Commission of between 1.3 and 1.5 million, or about 1.37 million. The deer population was estimated at about 1.2 million in 2010, 1.1 million in 2008 and 2007,  1.4 million in 2002,  to 1.5 million in 2001 and 2000

Population estimates have been a matter of public controversy. The deer harvest rose about 4 percent in 2015 to 315,813, 43.4% were antlered deer. Of the bucks taken, 59 percent were 2.5 years old or older, a big increase from past years that the department attributes to antler restrictions.  Peak of the rut is about November 14.

According to the Nature Tourism project, the deer population grew from 1.2 million deer in 2006 to 1.6 million in 2011. After antler restrictions on hunters were introduced in 2002, the observed ratio of button bucks to adult bucks dropped from 15-to-1 in the winter of 2002 to 2-to-1 in 2004. Yearling buck survival has increased from 15 to 52 percent, harvest of adult bucks has increased from 20 to 50 percent. The observed ratio of adult doe to adult bucks fell from 14-to-1 to 2-to-1 over that period. 90 percent of all deer are conceived between mid-October and mid-December.  About 750,000 deer hunters were estimated, 16 per square mile of hunting land, but this number was later determined to be too high.  

A 2001 (p. 3) population estimate from the state of 1.54 million with a deer population density of 39 deer per square mile of forested area.  Another estimate from Penn State of 1.5 million deer in 2001 and from Penn State in another publication in 2001.  Prior to the hunt in 2000 a population estimate from the state of 1.523 million deer.  A 1990 population estimate of one million deer.

Hunting license sales peaked in 1982 at 1.3 million, 952,989 sold in 2013.  Hunting success about 33 percent in 2013.  About 80 percent of hunting is on public land, 1.5 million acres of game land.  In 2000 the PGC increased hunting in order to reduce the herd. Although the strategy changed to stabilizing the population in 2005, the herd continued to decline, especially in the north.

In Pennsylvania, hunting data represents the primary source of population trend information [2009 Deer Management Plan, page 77]. 

Deer Farms.  In 2023 there were over 600 deer farms in he state.  In 2020, there were over 750 deer farms.  In 2018, there were 860 deer farms regulated by the Department of Agriculture with about 23,000 deer.  In 2017 a reported 23,000 captive deer on 1,100 breeding farms.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania was first detected in 2012 at a captive deer facility in Adams county.  First discovered in the wild herd in 2013 in Bedford and Blair counties.  From 2012 to 2015, a total of 22 free-ranging deer tested CWD-positive deer.  In 2016, 25 free ranging deer tested positive, bringing the total free-ranging CWD-positive deer to 47.  With more deer testing positive in 2017 and 2018, bring the total to more than 100.  In 2017 after only 13 cases of CWD in captive deer, 27 deer tested positive in a deer farm in Bedford county - the herd of 215 were euthanized.  Four more at the end of 2017 bringing the total positives from capative deer to 44.  

In 2018, 36 deer positives from a farm in Fulton County and two more from Bedford.  By mid-2019, 250 positives in free ranging deer with 204 additional free-ranging deer testing positive from the 2019 season bring the total since 2012 to 453.  Another 212 positives from the 2020 season, more than half from Bedford county.  About 730 cases by 2021.  In 2022 there were 723 captive shooting facilities with 35 having positives for CWD, 18 still had deer as of April.  There were 253 positive cases identified from the 2021-22 deer season.  From July 2022 to June 2023 more than 400 wild deer tested positive for CWD.

By fall, 2022, more than 118,000 wild, free-ranging whitetails and more than 1,700 elk  were tested for CWD with about 1,000 positive deer and no elk.  By fall, 2023, more than 131,000 wild, free-ranging whitetails had been tested for CWD since 1998, along with more than 1,900 elk.  CWD has been found in more than 1,400 deer, 243 of those taken by hunters last season.  No elk.  CWD Dasboard.

In the 2023-24 season with nearly 11,000 samples from deer over 440 deer have tested positive for CWD in the 2023-2024 sampling year, up from 426 CWD-positive samples in 2022-23.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) likely first observed in the state in 1996, but no samples fresh enough to test.  Confirmation of EHD came in Green and Washington counties six years later.  A limited outbreak in 2007, 2012, 2017,  and 2020.  An outbreak in the southeast in 2018 and in 2023.

History:  The first deer season was established in 1869.  In 1897, the use of bait and dogs to hunt deer were both outlawed.   In the early 1900's, the Pennsylvania deer population was so low that the Game Commission began stocking deer in 1906.  Does were protected from 1907 until 1923 to boost the population and for many of the years until 1957.    The restrictions on hunting antlerless deer and extensive logging during the late 1800s and early 1900s supported an increase in the deer population from about 1,000 deer in 1905 to about 1 million in 1928 [2009 Deer Management Plan, page 9].

The first hunting licenses were established in 1913.  In 1923, a minimum 2 points to an antler or 6-inch spike was required for a buck.  During the depression the practice of hunting deer at night "jacklighting" became popular, made illegal in 1935.  The buck season was closed in 1938 with the herd in decline. 

In 1986, there were 1,000,000 deer hunters in Pennsylvania.  In 2013 around 740,000 deer hunters.  Since antler restrictions were enacted in Pennsylvania in 2002, yearling buck survival has increased from 15 to 52 percent, while harvest of adult bucks has increased from 20 to 50 percent.  More history starting on page 9.

A 2019 report states that  "According to the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania’s white-tailed deer population has grown from about 10 deer per square mile in the 1700s to an estimated 30 deer per square mile."

Reindeer once roamed the state when its weather was more like southern Alaska today.

Elk    The Elk population was estimated at 1,400 in 2023, 1,400 to 1,500 in 2021 and 2022.  About 1,000 in 2019, 900 in the beginning of 2015, growing from about 65 in 1971 to 800 in 2011. A 2023 study reported that only 63% of calves survived through their first year, and predation was the leading cause of mortality.

Once native to Pennsylvania, by 1877 over hunting and habitat loss resulted in the regional extermination of the species with the last known elk killed by a hunter.  Between 1913 and 1926 the Game Commission released 177 elk.  The first shipment of 50 elk from Yellowstone Park came by train in 1913.   In 1934, about 14 in the state.  Elk hunts were banned, but illegal poaching occurred. A 1971 survey counted 65 elk in Pennsylvania  In 1998 a three year long trap and transfer program expanded the elk's range.  History

Bears   About 2,500 in the 1990s and 15,000 around 2022 and 2023.  An estimated 18,000 bears in 2013 and over 20,000 in 2020.  Down to about 16,000 in 2022.

Coyotes, some experts believe there may be hundreds of thousands in 2019.

Wolves, eradicated by 1892.

Report Poaching:   Call the Game Commission at 814-643-1831.  Callers can remain anonymous and there may be a reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Report a dead deer for removal from state roads, call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.