Date of this Version
Wildlife Society Bulletin 35(3):195–200; 2011; DOI: 10.1002/wsb.11
Populations of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have become overabundant throughout their historic range, especially in developed landscapes. A variety of techniques, including controlled hunts in urban–suburban areas, are being used to increase harvest. Deer donation programs have been initiated in nearly all 50 states of the United States, and have been successful at providing venison to the hungry, but at significant costs to wildlife agencies and hunters. Our objectives were to: 1) develop a low-cost program to facilitate the exchange of excess harvested deer from hunters to recipients; 2) evaluate the attitudes of participating hunters and recipients; and 3) determine the effectiveness of the Nebraska Deer Exchange (NDE). The NDE was developed in 2008, featuring an interactive webpage hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC). The NDE served as a database and matchmaker for hunters and recipients to contact each other and arrange the transfer of harvested deer. We evaluated the program by conducting an e-mail survey of participants. The code and website for the NDE were developed in 40 hr and the overall cost to NGPC was US$1,120. A total of 1,172 people participated the first year and >6,900 kg of venison was donated to willing recipients. Sixty-six percent of donors indicated they harvested additional deer as a direct result of the NDE. Surveyed participants overwhelmingly indicated that the program was easy, inexpensive, and should continue the next year. The NDE aided in the harvest of additional deer, increased interactions between hunters and nonhunters, and provided nutritious venison to willing recipients.