White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) -Historical Profile

Written by: Sean Bryan, Jessie Harris, Narmeen Nweisser, Frank Zacharias.

Historical Profile
The white-tailed deer has been recorded to have originated near regions north of central Mexico (Morales, 2016) and has since made its way both south to northern parts of South America and into Canada and fading in population size as they reach the boreal zones of Canada. Ontario has not always been a suitable habitat due to glaciers covering the landscape leaving behind landforms such as moraines and eskers (Dawe, 2014)

The St Lawrence lowlands within Ontario and nearby Provinces is composed of rich ecosystems that are suitable for the survivorship of the white-tailed deer. This same area became home to Indigenous clans which historically may have followed the deer and other game animal’s north from parts of America or pushed there such as the Anishinabek (Warrick, 2012) who were designated land along the Grand River watershed in treaty agreements.  The Native Americans would make sure that almost nothing of the deer was wasted within the community. They would eat the meat and use bone marrow to make up a large part of their diet, but they would also use the hides for things like rugs, clothes, fishnets, and blankets. The antlers and bones would be crafted into arrowheads, clubs, fishhooks, and tools for the Indigenous people to use. This made the white-tailed deer sought after for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and also has become a trophy species, the trophy being the antlers on a male deer.

However with the settlement of farmers in North America it caused the deer populations to decline with the removal of cover for crops and unregulated shooting. As logging was happening for more land to be used for crops, more and more of the opposite effects on the deer populations occurred. Logging caused more openings, made more brush, and younger forests to establish making it the perfect condition for deer. This caused an estimate climb in the population of about a million deer. As railroads were introduced it made it easier to access the wilderness. With the population of deer rising and access to more wilderness, the amount of hunting that was done increased again. In 1895 Michigan began making progress on deer management in the state with making a deer hunting season and a limit amount that could be harvested. For decades after the laws were made there was a constant up and down in the populations due to the seasons for hunting to change new regulations and available habitat. In 1986 only Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas reported over-populated deer ranges. In contrast, in 2013, 18 of 47 states surveyed reported issues with overpopulated deer herds in urban areas.In many states the deer population is at or below biological carrying capacity (K) but exceeds social carrying capacity. Many current issues with White-tailed deer are related to an increasingly urban human population that is less tolerant of deer, and not necessarily with increases in deer populations.” (Krausman,Christensen,Mcdonald, & Leopold, 2014). Today, the white-tailed deer is the most widespread deer in the world, making it the most popular game in the United States chased by about 11 million hunters. There is now problems that arise due to the adaptability of the deer. Since the deer are very adaptable it makes it easy for them to become a problem within an urban city. Deer sterilization is one way of controlling deer populations within a city.


Ecological Connections:

Eradicating of the white-tailed deer can be done but would take a long time too. This is because the white-tailed deer population is high. The deer is a “K” strategy species like described above, they have a long life span but take a lot of care to get to an older age, which makes them a slow growth population (Fulbright, 2013). This makes for easy eradication because you can wipe out a population quickly by hunting the deer and putting them under stress. In Ontario for example, deer populations in the city of London have been a concern for the last decade, especially the habitats associated with the Sifton Bog. Concerns include the natural areas within the city of London and how they are impacted by deer. (Stephenson,2011)

Deer are herbivores that graze on long grasses in the summer time. While deer are in the long grass they can have a Deer Tick attach to them (Safer, 2017). By having the deer in the city they may bring in the ticks that they could have gotten in the long grass into the city. This is a problem because these ticks can be transmitted to your dogs and causing death, but also humans as well through Lyme disease. The challenges cities have been facing is trying to find the balance of the number of deer to the homeowners and their properties (Safer, 2017). Okay but you should be mentioning that Lyme Disease is the cause of issues which is transmitted by the ticks.

In Manitoba there is currently over 6,000 deer-vehicle collisions every year, making it a problem to humans (n.a., 2010). The deer’s habitat is along forest edges and if you put a road through a forest there is a good possibility that they will need to cross the road is high. Deer are also obligate migrators, meaning they must travel to find food. This can relate to deer collisions because if they need to cross a road to get to another source of food that increase the chances of collisions on the roads. Vehicle damage can also be costly to the car owners. There is also a problem with deer eating farmers crops and damaging resident’s landscape of their yard. (n.a.,2010). For these reasons the deer population needs to decrease around urban cities without causing a lot of damage to the ecosystem.  Another factor is the overgrazing of forests and fields near or in urban areas.  The lack of space and over abundance of white-tailed deer lead them to over graze causing a negative effect on ecosystems.


Critical Assessment of Management Options

For the population of white-tailed deer to be controlled around an urban city there are various methods of control without damaging the ecosystem and the species. Sterilization of the doe’s is an effective way to control urban deer populations. Opening the hunting season for a wider range throughout the year can help control populations. Using fence to keep the deer away from roads and urban places is also another option for controlling the deer.  Relocation of white-tailed deer is also an option but is rarely feasible because lots of variables fall into place, such as high costs, lack of habitat to relocate to, high stress on the individual deer and high mortality rate.  (Boulanger, 2012). The option to do nothing is always something ecologists need to keep in mind and always looking at the history to make sure they weigh out all options before making one.

A method that is used by some cities is to sterilize the female deer (doe). Sterilization is an effective method to help reduce deer populations around urban settings. Sterilizing the females will reduce the amount that a deer can reproduce causing a decline in cities. This method however is very labour intensive making it one of the most expensive ways of dealing with the problem. It takes many hours to set up traps for the deer as well as doing the surgery on the deer. The multiple people that would be working on this project would need to have a high level of training/expertise, making them a high paid employee. Doing the surgeries on the deer it will also cost a lot in tools transportation and traps (Schwantje, 2015). Surgical sterilization is the most dependable means to permanently sterilize female deer. Sterilization of a bigger population of female deer has the advantage of lessening deer numbers more quickly and producing fawns overall. (Grovenburg,2009). Although this method of controlling the population will work it is very costly. (Cornell)

Another way to reduce the population of deer around an urban area is to open the hunting season for a longer duration. Having the hunting season expanded can be a very effective way to reduce numbers. Hunting can also have a positive impact on the community by having a cultural practice and being able to do so for a longer period of time in the year. By hunting, the hunters get to use the meat for consumption for themselves, family and friends. These two factors can help a community greatly. This method has very minimal cost to the government for the decrease in the population because they do not need to hire employees to do the work (Schwantje, 2015). Customary strategies for overseeing overabundant white-tailed deer concentrate on lethal removal, for example, hunting or sharp shooting. Although it has been proposed that culling may be the most practical alternative. Lethal control might be unreasonable in a few communities because of legal, well-being or moral concerns. (Grovenburg, 2009). Also the hunting would be happening outside of the urban areas which may actually make the deer come to the city for more cover where they cannot be killed.

Table 1. Illustrates a comparison of the management methods to determine what method to use for the management of the white-tailed deer.

Management Method Costs Benefits Factors Efficacy
Hunting/Sharpshooting Make money on tags Reducing/maintaining populations in large areas Safety concern
Most effective currently
Deer Contraception/Sterilization Expensive Maintaining populations  Labour intensive  –
Do Nothing Nothing Wouldn’t be harmed from human, just predators, accident collisions Not managing pop. will make healthy forest unsustainable  –
Rehabilitation Expensive

Ambriz-Morales, P., De La Rosa-Reyna, X. F., Sifuentes-Rincon, A. M., Parra-Bracamonte, G.M., Villa-Melchor, A., Chassin-Noria, O., & Arellano-Vera, W. (2016). The complete mitochondrial genomes of nine white-tailed deer subspecies and their genomic differences. Journal Of Mammalogy, 97(1), 234-245. doi:10.1093/jmammal/gyv172

Dawe, K., Bayne, E., & Boutin, S. (2014). Influence of climate and human land use on the distribution of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the western boreal forest. Canadian Journal Of Zoology, 92(4), 353-363.

Donovan, J. (June 4, 2013). Science News. White-tailed deer and the science of yellow snow.

Entomological Society of America. (2014, July 1). Reducing deer populations may reduce risk of Lyme disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 3, 2017 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701111549.htm

Feltham, J. V. (2017, January 20). Jfeltham_ecological_profile. Lecture presented at Species Management in Fleming Campus, Lindsay.

Fieberg, J., Kuehn, D. W., & Delgiudice, G. D. (2008). Understanding Variation In Autumn Migration Of Northern White-Tailed Deer By Long-Term Study. Journal Of Mammalogy, 89(6), 1529-1539.

Georgia, U. o. (September 28, 2015). Be on the lookout this fall: Deer-vehicle collisions increase during breeding season. Science News.

Grovenburg, T. W., Jenks, J. A., Klaver, R. W., Swanson, C. C., Jacques, C. N., & Todey, D.(2009). Seasonal movement and home ranges of white-tailed deer in north-central South Dakota. Canadian Journal Of Zoology, 87(10), 876-885.

Hewitt, David G. (2011). Biology & Management of White-tailed Deer. Taylor & Francis.

Hummel, S. ‘., Campa, H. I., Locher, A., & Winterstein, S. R. (2016). Spatial quantification of white-tailed deer habitat of a wetland-dominated landscape in Central Lower Michigan. Michigan Academician, (3), 393.

Klaver, R. W., Jenks, J. A., Deperno, C. S., & Griffin, S. L. (2008). Associating Seasonal Range Characteristics With Survival of Female White-Tailed Deer. Journal Of Wildlife Management, 72(2), 343-353. doi:10.2192/2005-581

Krausman, P. R., Christensen, S. A., McDonald, J. E., & Leupold, B. D. (2014). Dynamics and social issues of overpopulated deer ranges in the United States: a long term assessment. California Fish & Game, 100(3), 436-450. Retrieved from                                                               http://www.bcqwc.org/uploads/5/0/9/9/50992449/krausman_et_al_2014.pdf

Stephenson, D., Dance, K., Anderson, P., Brenton, T., Murphy, S., Smith, D., Boles, R.,Keable, L. (2011) Sifton Bog White-Tailed Deer Management Study City of  London.[PDF file] Retrieved from http://thamesriver.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/WestminsterPonds/Report-DRAFT-Sifton-DeerManagement-January11.pdf

Warrick, G. (2012). Buried Stories: Archaeology and Aboriginal Peoples of the Grand River, Ontario. Journal Of Canadian Studies, 46(2), 153-177.









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