- At the turn of the century, the deer population in the U.S. was actually less than 500,000 animals.
- Current numbers are projected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20+ million animals.
- Some suburban areas are experiencing deer population densities as high as 30-40 animals (occasionally reaching 100 or more) per square mile (ecosystems begin to degrade when counts rise above 15-20 deer per square mile).
- Recent data suggests that deer are now causing nearly $1 billion in farm, garden, and timber damage annually in the U.S.
- Deer eat more than 500 different types of plants.
Deer Management Strategies
- Placement and selection of plants
- Netting/fencing and tubing
Control Deer Damage
- Adult deer require 4-10 lbs. of forage, each, daily
- Losses caused by white-tailed deer exceed loses associated with all other wildlife species in the U.S.
- The number of whitetail deer has tripled in some states in the last decade.
- Lyme disease, carried by deer ticks and capable of causing crippling arthritis, is now second behind AIDS as the country’s fastest-growing infectious disease.
- Land use patterns often change in areas adjacent to rural subdivisions or where new homes are being built. Land taken out of agricultural production will generally become good deer habitat in years to come, if it hasn’t already.
- In addition to browsing, damage may occur in the fall when bucks begin rubbing antlers on small trees and young nursery stock.
- Deer eat a variety of vegetation including woody plants, grasses, and forbs (small broad-leaf flowering plants). They also consume fruit, nut, and ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, and garden vegetables.
- Deer trample plants and damage young trees and shrubs by rubbing their antlers on trunks and limbs.
- Because most deer feed in the late evening and very early morning, it is not always easy to observe them.
What are the types of deer damage?
There are primarily two types of deer damage.
- Browsing: To recognize deer browsing, look for torn leaves or stalks with ragged ends. Deer have no upper incisors and must jerk or tear plants when feeding. Woodchucks, rabbits and other small rodents usually leave cleanly cut plant stalks.
- Antler rubbing: Another form of damage occurs when male deer (bucks) rub their antlers on trees. This type of damage is characterized by vertical scrapes and shredded bark on the saplings, exposing underlying wood.
What is the annual pattern of deer damage? Patterns of deer damage change from year to year depending on weather, availability of food, and deer density. It is best to plan a deer damage control program that is based on the most severe instance of damage in the past five years.
What is the seasonal pattern of deer damage? Seasonal patterns of damage must be evaluated over a period of years. Deer have definitive food preferences that vary seasonally. In general, summer damage is less extensive than winter damage, because other sources of preferred foods are often available. Fruit growers, foresters, nursery operators and Christmas tree growers commonly lose dormant buds and annual growth to deer during the winter when other food is not available.