Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for

 

Date of this Version

October 2000

Abstract

Overabundance of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) continues to challenge wildlife professionals nationwide, especially in urban settings. Moreover, wildlife managers often lack general site-specific information on deer movements, survival, and reproduction that are critical for management planning. We conducted radio-telemetry research concurrent with deer culling in forest preserves in northeastern Illinois and used empirical data to construct predictive population models. We culled 2,826 deer from 16 forest preserves in DuPage County (1992-1999) including 1,736 from the 10 km2 Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. We also radio-marked 129 deer from 8 preserves in DuPage and adjacent Cook County (1994-1998). Recruitment was inversely associated with deer density suggesting a classic density-dependent response. Female deer were philopatric and 20% of adult males dispersed. Survival was high for all sex and age classes, and deer-vehicle collisions accounted for >55% of known mortalities. Based upon data from other areas, early attempts to apply population models to deer at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve were not useful. The subsequent quantification of the density-dependent recruitment response and use of other empirical data strengthened the predictive capability of models. Our experience illustrates the importance of understanding demographics of overabundant deer in order to set realistic objectives and make sound management decisions.

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