Overpopulation: Whitetail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

By: Anna Praiswater

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Deer are cute and harmless, right? Think again. The whitetail deer abundance has caused deer to graze close to the ground and browse higher up eating the lower parts of trees. The browse line shows where the deer population is excessive, the lower parts of trees will be picked off, browse lines are usually 4-6 feet off the ground. With limited predators to regulate their population they first forage the forest floor then nibble anything within reach destroy much of the woodlands plant life.

“Deer like to attack the same trees as caterpillars, for the same reason. Their leaves are more tender and nutritious and delicious than those of many other trees, so deer will eat those first, and if deer eat them when they’re just seedlings or saplings, they won’t grow into tall trees whose leaves will feed caterpillars. Then those caterpillars, in turn, they would have been eaten by birds that live in the canopy. So now those birds are gone.” – Al Cambronne (author of Deerland: America’s Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness).

Crop and Car Collision Damage

One hundred years ago deer were almost non-existent now there are several million of them. The conservation effort never foresaw such a dramatic increase in population or how that would affect the environment. After a herd has scavenged their forest (when deer find a territory to inhabit they don’t leave it) they move on to farmers’ crops. Farmers are complaining, the severity of crop damage varies. Extreme damage is the result of a highly favored crop. Specialty crops are sometimes inclined to harm.

Population & Reproduction

Two deer with limited predation can produce a herd of 35 whitetail deer in just 7 years.When there are few deer mortality rates are minimal because there is a large area to forage for food. If there is a large population of deer then competition comes into play, deer start to compete for the same things such as: a quality scavenge or other elements in a habitat.


Sport hunting diminishes deer population and is encouraged, so managing the population is an easier task. People can obtain permits to shoot antler-less deer and shoot antler-less deer during the specific season. There isn't really a way to manage deer population in suburban areas, despite how hard we try.

Scares & Flares

There are little things you can do to protect yourself from deer damage like changing out the plant species in your garden to insure they aren't eaten or spray repellent. Fencing is the primary way to keep deer away, though it's mostly used by farmers to protect high value crops because of the enormous cost of buying and putting up fencing. Frightening is another option, most of the time these scare devices involve pyrotechnics, such as gas exploders which you can put on timed intervals. Hair bags and bar soap are some homemade alternatives, numerous studies and testimonials show that deer don't care for the odor.

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