Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Proceedings of the 11th Wildlife Damage Management Conference. (D.L. Nolte, K.A. Fagerstone, Eds). 2005.


Management of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herds at the landscape scale is increasingly difficult. The future of eastern hardwood forests is threatened by inadequate regeneration of valuable timber species, due in large measure to deer browsing. In the northeast, deer damage to crops, landscaping, and vehicles costs more than 640 million dollars annually. Nationally, hunter ranks are decreasing. In the east , white-tailed deer numbers are increasing; state wildlife agencies have expanded season lengths, and increased deer bag limits. While venison is still a highly prized meat, the average hunting family wants to use about 2 deer per year. Studies indicate that even with longer seasons, ample “doe” tags and intensive public education, there may be too few hunters to reduce deer populations to desired levels. Many suburban deer herds are essentially un-huntable because of legal or social constraints. In Fairmont Park PA, one of the world’s largest urban parks, professional shooters reduced the herd by well over a thousand deer by shooting over bait at night. Has deer “management” been too successful? Is it time to turn the clocks back, admit we may have too much of a good thing? Have herd densities risen to the point that their long-term impact on habitat is unacceptable? Can financial incentives reduce the societal costs associated with overabundant deer? Can we restore habitat while providing revenue for private industry by reinstituting “market hunting” in the east? Biologically, we can do it; the social, cultural, and political constraints may be far tougher to overcome. Nevertheless, we believe it is time to put the issue of restricted market hunting on the table.