Urban Deer Control By Tom Brissee
Deer populations in metropolitan
areas are increasing significantly. In fact, Deer populations overall
in the United States have been increasing due to conservation efforts
and deer herd and habitat management. 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" is farther
away than the previous year.
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
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"
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.