The Control of Urban Deer

Deer populations in metropolitan areas are increasing significantly. In addition, deer populations overall in the United States have been increasing due to both conservation efforts and deer herd and habitat management. To compound the issue,the human population of most cities in the United States is also rising. In order to house this rising human population, deer habitat is being destroyed as development of residential areas is increased. Each year these residential areas grow, spreading farther out into rural areas. Simply go for a drive in the "country" or rural, low-human population areas, on the edge of any metropolitan-urban setting and you will discover that the "country" getting further and further away!

The good news is that Deer have a strong survival instinct as well as the ability to adapt to their changing environment. When their previously-forest or farmland habitat is bulldozed and developed, they are pushed out temporarily. After the development of homes and neighborhoods is completed, deer will usually return to live on the edges of these areas, in whatever suitable habitat they can find. Their previous food sources are replaced with new ones.

Before the development took place, the deer would feed in the woods and fields, and develop diets based on the food available there. After the development is complete, the deer will utilize new food sources including gardens, trees and other plants which have been planted in the new residential areas. Often, these deer stay out of sight, sleeping, eating and breeding until their population overtakes the "carrying capacity" of their new, reduced habitat.

Carrying capacity is the quantity of deer that a given area can support, based on cover and food limitations. When the overall habitat available in an area is reduced, the carrying capacity of that area will also be reduced. It takes a very short time for an existing population of deer to exceed this carrying capacity within these new developments. This causes problems due to the increased occurrence of deer-car accidents and other conflicts between the respective deer and human populations. These deer can become "nuisances" to the human population around them, due to limited space. That's the time when the deer population control options start getting discussed.

Options which are considered, when deer population control becomes necessary are as follows. 1. Deer contraception 2. Trapping and relocation of deer 3. Removal of deer from the population by hiring sharp-shooters to shoot the deer. 4. Removal of deer through bowhunting. It has been shown through various studies that bowhunting is a cost-effective means for reducing metro deer populations when compared with other tactics.
Deer contraception is conducted by trapping female deer, sedating them and placing a contraceptive implant under their skin. These deer won't become pregnant for a fixed amount of time until the implant becomes ineffective. This tactic has been proven to be high-cost and low effect because the majority of the female deer in an area need to be trapped and the cost of the drugs and the cost of trapping the deer are both high. Due to the survival instincts of the deer, it is difficult to trap a large enough portion of the deer population to make contraception an effective population control tactic. Trapping and relocation can be effective but is also high cost and very time consuming. Most metro city councils and parks deparments have very small, if any, budgets for deer population control efforts. The use of sharp-shooters can be effective but, again, the cost will be high and the idea of high-powered firearms being used near residential areas is not popular with the people who live in those areas. The potential for accidents is not a risk that most city councils and parks departments, not to mention the local residents, are willing to take. Again, bowhunting has been proven to be a safe and effective way for the deer population to be reduced. Also, the cost to the city councils and parks departments is minimal. The deer which are harvested are either taken home by the hunters themselves or donated to local food shelfs, providing much needed, inexpensive nourishment for the needy. The hunters involved in these highly organized hunts are volunteers who donate their time. The opportunity to be in the woods is payment enough for them.

One organization which has been dedicated to fulfilling the need for bowhunters to be used for deer population control is the Metro Bowhunter's Resource Base or MBRB for short. The MBRB is involved with various state, county and city agencies in assisting with the control of White-tailed Deer populations within the metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St.Paul, the "twin cities" of Minnesota.

Hunters are added to the MBRB list of hunters after they have fulfilled strict rules outlined by the MBRB organizers. The hunters are required to take a Bowhunter Education course prior to being able to hunt. This course teaches basic information concerning bowhunting, such as, deer habits and habitat, safety, ethical hunting behavior and proper shot placement in order to provide a quick, clean harvest of the animal. The MBRB also requires that each hunter passes a bow-shooting proficiency test each year, in order to assure that only the most accurate hunters are used in the organized hunts. Further regulations are determined through coordination between the MBRB, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the government agencies which have contacted the MBRB for deer-control assistance. All regulations are made clear to the members of the MBRB prior to any hunt taking place. The hard and fast rule for all MBRB members is: Follow the rules and hunt ethically. There is no room in the MBRB for hunters not willing to follow all the rules and regulations to the letter.

Organizations such as the MBRB are needed as destruction of traditional deer habitat increases and deer-population control measures become necessary. Management of deer herds involves removing some of the deer from areas where deer numbers exceed the overall carrying capacity. This will increase the health of the remaining deer population and reduce the occurrence of deer herd disease and winter-kill. Bowhunting is the safest and most economical way to reduce the overall deer population in a given area.

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