White-tailed Deer – A Success Story in Texas

White-tailed Deer - A Success Story in Texas

At one point in the late 19th century, white-tailed deer nearly disappeared from the Texas landscape. Over harvest and alteration of natural plant communities had reduced or eliminated deer numbers across much of Texas. Protective measures were taken, including the first deer seasons, harvest limits, and the establishment of the state game warden service.

This protection from exploitation was accompanied by adaptation of deer to altered landscapes and widespread restocking by the state wildlife department. From their near disappearance over 100-years ago, white-tailed deer have been restored to most areas they previously occupied and have even expanded their range into historically unoccupied areas of the state. The restoration of the whitetail is a wildlife management success story in Texas and many other states that went through similar transitions.

White-tailed Deer - A Success Story in Texas

The current status of white-tailed deer populations nationally is also a testament to the resiliency and adaptability of this species. White-tailed deer can thrive side-by-side with human populations through urban and suburban areas throughout the United States. The adaptability of white-tailed deer and the desire of people to live and work in areas that retain green spaces have resulted in deer overabundance in many areas.

White-tailed Deer - A Success Story in Texas

Not only do deer represent a success story for the species, but they represent part of the culture in many rural areas. White-tailed deer now account for a significant portion of local economies in Texas and much of small-town America. With significant biological, economic, and social importance, hopefully the white-tailed deer will always have a place to call home.

Too Many Deer – Problems With Overabundance

Too Many Deer - Problems With Overabundance

The white-tailed deer is one of the most popular and recognizable species of wildlife in the eastern half of the United States. They are a significant recreational resource among hunters and those who just like to watch and enjoy wildlife. White-tailed deer are also an important economic resource to many rural land owners who lease hunting rights on their property and businesses that profit from traveling hunters.

Whitetail, as they are commonly referred to, are also an increasingly common animal in and around many urban and suburban communities, often in overabundance. An overabundant deer herd can be described as one that exceeded the capacity of the native plant community. Overabundant deer herds can result in concerns for the deer, for the native plant communities, for urban landscapes and also the health, safety, and economic well-being of local communities.

Neighborhoods across the U.S. are beginning to confront these issues which have been a concern of communities in the northeastern states for several decades. As overabundant white-tailed deer reduce the health of native plant communities, other wildlife species become less common. Having too many deer causes health problems within the herd such as starvation, increased numbers of parasites, and more disease.

Overabundant deer herds cause concerns such as:

— Automobile accidents from deer collisions or drivers trying to avoid deer.

— Severe damage to landscaping.

— Buck deer that are unafraid of people can be dangerous during the breeding season (rut).

— Increased numbers of disease causing agents such as ticks carrying Lyme’s disease.

— Deer feeding resulting in more reproduction and further aggravation of all overabundant deer conerns.

Too Many Deer - Problems With Overabundance

Solutions for controlling deer numbers:

Within urban and suburban areas, controlling whitetail deer numbers can difficult. To control any population, one must either reduce the current population or curtail reproduction. This can be difficult to accomplish because of conflicts within communities. For every person that sees too many deer as a problem, there is someone that does not want to trap, remove, harvest, or otherwise “impact” the animal.

Deer Over Abundance in Wisconsion

Deer are certainly an important and enjoyable part of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy and other conservancy areas throughout the City of Middleton, Wisconsion.  Indeed, deer are wonderful, beautiful, wild animals which people seem to love to watch and feed. White-tailed deer are also an important part of an even greater plan, an ecosystem more complex than we can ever imagine. So what happens we deer overpopulate their habitat?

As agricultural lands disappear and our urban areas continu to grow, the telltale signs of an overpopulated and un-balanced urban deer herd will be exhibited everywhere through the loss of native plant species (trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants), damage to private residential vegetation (trees, shrubs and herbaceous shrubs), and an increased number of car-kill deer accidents within associated suburban and urban areas.

Maureen Rowe, DNR , a Wildlife Biologist for the Dane County Area, sums it up best by stating:

"The deer herds within management units 76 and 76M, are severely over populated. Scientific studies document that current deer population levels threaten microhabitat, severely impacting native flora and fauna."

Deer Overpopulation in Urban Areas

Controlling Urban Deer Overpopulation

Many expanding suburban communities and some well-developed cities face a dangerously expanding deer population. In backyards, native deer graze on shrubbery and spar over the best territory. They walk through an empty driveway in Central Texas, meander through a Washington D.C. subway stop and into run through Colorado streets. White-tailed deer are a costly municipal menace that some call a nice problem to have.

Deer Overpopulation not Cool

To many, the opportunity to observe deer walking, feeding and living within their neighborhood might seem kind of neat at first glance, but it’s a very real and big problem in many areas across the country. “They wouldn’t think that if they were faced with $1 million worth of damage and, you know, 50 or 60 dead deer on the road that need to be disposed of. It’s not a nice problem to have,” says Gerry Astorino, the mayor of Lakeway, Texas.

Controlling Urban Deer Overpopulation

Residents of the Hollywood Park community in San Antonio, Texas, are singing the same song; there are way too many deer living among them. In large numbers whitetail have become much more than a nuisance; the deer overpopulation is also a safety concern for many reasons.

Now Lakeway and Hollywood Park are trapping the deer living within their communities, thinning herds that have grown to more than 1,000 animals. The deer will be processed and the meat donated to local food banks. It’s a win-win for the communities and those that need lean protein, but not everyone is a supporter of the programs.

Too Many Deer, People?

The sight of Bambi going to be butchered has brought protests. “We don’t want it to be just trap and trap and trap and slaughter, slaughter, slaughter until they’re all gone,” says Debbie Trueman.

In natural situations, white-tailed deer populations tend to rise and fall based on environmental factors. When there is food to eat deer populations grow, but when food availability is low deer numbers decline. Deer populations found living within suburban areas do not see these variances because of stable food supplies.

The regular irrigation of lawns and the feeding of deer both add food to the system and help prop-up deer numbers. Most communities dealing with overabundant deer populations have banned the feeding of deer, but some residents sympathize and covertly feed them.

But Sunny Williams, who had a knee-shattering collision with a doe, is not as sympathetic. “They don’t care about people that are severely injured,” says Williams, adding that they had to put his knee back together with wires and screws. Nearly half the cars in a nearby body shop visited by a reporter hit deer.

“If I had to guess, an average repair is probably $3,000 or so,” says John Caldwell. One of the biggest parts of the problem is urban and even suburban deer population moving further and further out of cities and into areas once known only to wildlife. “I don’t know that there’s a long-term solution to suburban deer problems in this country,” says Bryan Richards, of Texas’ Parks and Wildlife Dept.

Population Growth, Limited Solutions

And so residents in some Texas communities continue to hotwire their flowerbeds with electric fencing, literally wrapping their homes in wire to keep deer away. Relocating them to ranches, experts say, is just a temporary fix. “I think that communities have to become more accepting of lethal means of population control,” says Richards.

Highland Park, Illinois, captures whitetail does and a veterinarian surgically sterilizes them in an attempt to curb the growth of their overabundant deer population. It’s very expensive procedure, but for gun-shy suburbs, it may an option to keep the backyard from becoming a jungle out there.