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airecka99's avatar

Is Deer overpopulation really a problem?

Asked by airecka99 (27points) September 14th, 2015

Is deer hunting really justified because there are “just too many” of them? What are the big issues that deer are causing to proclaim that there is an overpopulation of deer

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35 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.
In places yes, it’s a huge problem. They don’t have any natural predators except for us. Their populations can explode and cause a multitude of problems.

janbb's avatar

In my area they cause lots of car accidents by running across roads at night and the driver not being able to avoid them. In other areas they denude gardens and shrubs.

JLeslie's avatar

I love watching the deer in my backyard. Especially, the babies.

I guess maybe they would starve if there really started to be an overpopulation.

Are we really the only predator? I find it odd to think that man is supposed to control an animal population. We take over where they live with suburban sprawl, and then we are annoyed when one darts across a road or eats our plants that aren’t even indigenous to the area half the time. I wonder in the wide open spaces out west if the deer population numbers are a problem in areas they aren’t hunted?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If they overpopulate an area, they’ll strip the vegetation down to where it won’t support a smaller population and the result is a massive die off due to starvation or illness. Here coyotes have learned to hunt in packs and they run down the occasional deer..

majorrich's avatar

Overpopulation not only causes a hazard to traffic and difficulties for homeowners, it severely decreases the health of the resident herd. Often genetic problems such as hermaphroditism and piebald animals increase in number. Competition for forage food in winter increases starvation loss further degrading the quality of the herd.

JLeslie's avatar

Why would genetic problems increase? I would think the bigger the population, the fewer the genetic problems.

Cruiser's avatar

We/man is largely responsible to the overabundance of deer populations chiefly because we have been encroaching on their natural habitat. What was once prairies and forests are now subdivisions and highways. Deer are now concentrated on what land they have left to live on and like others have pointed out here…natural predators are scarce at best and even hunters are limited to one tag a year. Sharpshooters can be employed to cull the herds IF there were tax dollars to fund the culls. I have lost a huge amount of roses to Bambi this year and I can live with this as it is what it is.

Judi's avatar

With Wolves gone in a lot of places they can destroy the habitat. How Wolves Change Rivers

SmashTheState's avatar

The problem is complex. Overpopulation by deer will cause them to overcrop, killing much of the vegetation they require to survive. Rather than a few dying of starvation and the rest staying healthy, what will then happen is all of them will become weak and sickly, and prone to disease. Once disease erupts, it will flash through entire herds, killing them in massive numbers and sending the whole ecological balance out of whack.

In fact, recent experiments introducing wolves into area which have not had them for a long time has not just made deer herds healthier but had surprising knock-on effects no one had anticipated—such as rivers no longer flooding. Overcropping caused by overpopulation causes death of plants which hold riverbanks together, causing them to slump and erode, causing flooding, causing all number of other effects. A few wolves will eat the old and sick deer and keep their populations under control.

In areas where it’s impractical to reintroduce wolves, culls of human hunters are necessary.

ibstubro's avatar

Mankind has destroyed most of the deer’s natural habitat and killed off their natural predators.

IMO deer are lucky they aren’t extinct. Or domesticated and factory farmed
Equal horrors..

janbb's avatar

@ibstubro InNew Zealand, there are venison farms. Seems strange.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@ibstubro Yup, we have deer farms here, too.

@airecka99 There’s no right answer to your question. In some places there is overpopulation, in other places, not. But hunting is certainly one way to address the problem. It’s better than letting them starve to death.

ibstubro's avatar

Deer farms where, @dappled_leaves?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@ibstubro In Quebec and Ontario, Canada. They are pretty common in rural areas, I think. People eat the meat.

majorrich's avatar

I wish I could tell you why there are genetic problems associated with overpopulation but only know that it happens. In my particular neck of the woods we have over 100 deer per square mile which is a mess-o-deer. We had a big die off, but still today I saw a much higher number of deer along the highway than I have seen in a long time. It is early for the herds to be moving like they are here. We had a very atypical winter last year and I am curious as to what this season has for us.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, deer can be a problem and I am a major animal/wild life nut. Here in the Sierra Nevada foot hills of Northern CA. we have an abundance of black tailed deer. Infact I have a doe with twin fawns hanging around right now. They are very numerous, eat everything in sight including all of your landscaping, veggie gardens, rose bushes, if they can get to them. They pilfer bird seed, animal feeds, hay, as well as being a major road hazard.

We do have cougars around too but, trust me, there are more than enough deer to feed the mountain lion population until doomsday. Without regular predation they can become diseased and I have seen a hideous deer mange condition that I was told was going around by a fish & game warden a few years ago. Scruffy, balding deer. Ick!
I have been lucky, had several near misses and a fawn run into my car ( it appeared uninjured ) but have friends that have had serious deer related accidents that have totaled their cars, luckily they were not injured.

Now…the extremely exciting news here in NorCal is the ” Shasta Pack.”

However…no way will wolves make it into these hills again, only in the high country here.
IF they did, viola…no more deer over population.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

If one is to truthfully look at cause and effect, it’s the encroachment of humans that is the cause of the problem, the effect being the crowding of deer onto increasingly smaller spaces. Call it overpopulation of humans, if you will. But, since nobody wants to control the human population the same way we do alligators, wolves, bears and buffalo, we must consider the deer as the problem. We also won’t inconvenience ourselves by restricting ourselves to living in highrises to minimize our encroachment into the wild. Some countries, such as Sweden, do this by creating a system of incentive by artificially increasing the price of lots used for single family homes through taxes.

So, not wanting to go Swede on this, we issue so many hunting licenses every year in order to control their population in proportion to the carrying capacity of the area they dwell in. This provides us with more land for our diaspora in the form of suburbs and farmland. It is a case of us or them.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus It’s less our impact on the deer habitat than it is our impact on the predator populations. @Coloma is right – the best solution is to import some wolves. Deer don’t do well if they are without a predator to keep the population in check. They will overrun their territory and eat everything in sight, kind of like long-legged, Bambi-shaped rodents. If they don’t have predators, then overpopulation will lead to disease and starvation.

Since we can’t simply drop wolves in the middle of every deer problem, it really does make sense to let the humans be their predators. It’s a win-win. (Except for the wolves. The wolves rarely win, unfortunately.)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@dappled_leaves And what happened to the predators that once controlled the population? I know the history of the area where Coloma lives very well. I used to hike and fish in those mountains as a kid. The predators were killed off long ago during and after the gold rush into the Sierra Nevadas. After the miners went away, the ranchers came in. I remember back in the late fifties, there was a bounty on bear in them thar hills, pushed by the ranchers and tourist industry. This is basically the same story everywhere you find this problem.

It is human impact that causes this problem.

However, I think the re-introductions of predators is a rational idea. I hope it works. But I can’t help to think it is only a matter of time before some suburbanite mother in Rancho Cordova or Fair Oaks freaks out when her child is mauled by said predator, ends up on the national news feed and hysteria ensues resulting in rash action by politicians. Or the local Grange, made up of very wealthy, politically powerful California ranchers and farmers, unites when their livestock comes up gutted in the fields.

I remember something years ago about a baby being carried off by dingos somewhere in Australia, I believe. I don’t know the rest of the story, but I would like to think that the Aussies handled it more rationally than I think the Americans would.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I found these statistic for Iowa.
“In a 16-year period, from 1993–2008, there were more than 124,000 vehicles crashes, more than 9,700 injuries and 73 people killed in deer-related accidents. Approximately 10,000 crash reports are missing from the year 2001 so these figures are lacking additional information. The crash reports from 2009, 2010 and 2011 were unavailable.”

In the US “Every year as many as 200 people are killed in deer related car accidents.”

“Tens of thousands of deer are killed when hit by cars. Erie Insurance, which keeps detailed records on car vs. deer claims, says the number of claims increased from 23,000 in 2000 to 26,000 in 2001, up 16 percent. That company alone spent $50 million on car/deer accidents in 2001, the vast majority of their claims in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.”/

If deer weren’t so gorgeous and the fawns so cute humans would have wiped them out thousands of years ago.
I just took some incredibly cute pictures of a fawn in my backyard. In 2 years it might very well smash up my car.

jca's avatar

I hit a deer that ran into my car (yes, he chased my car as I went to the left to try to avoid him) on a three lane highway where the typical driver goes about 80 mph. It was at night, I clipped him and am not sure what happened to him. To my car, it appeared to be relatively minor, but was $1500 at the body shop, all covered by insurance. Not a chargeable accident, as it doesn’t go against your insurance because it’s not seen as the driver’s fault. Insurance also had to pay for rental car while car was in shop.

I drove by a few times the next day to see if I saw a dead deer and I didn’t. I was also hoping I didn’t injure him enough that he was in the woods suffering, but there’s no way of knowing that unless I park on the highway and search all over on foot, which I can’t do.

There are lots of deer around here. Also coyotes. A few bears. I don’t think bears will kill the deer but the coyotes might.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jca. About 10 – 15 years ago, on the way to work, I hit one on the parkway with my minivan (the kind that looked like a dust buster). The deer jumped out from tall grass and I could not swerve without hitting other cars. It split into 3 pieces: some went over the top, some went under the car, and some ended up in the engine compartment. The noise was horrific. The floor, the engine, and the hood all shook. I managed to control the car and immediately got it off the road. The woman behind me was all bent out of shape and shaking. It scared her so much. It was a good thing the windshield was sloped or I could have had a dead deer as a passenger. Ick!
Cost ~ $3500. Like in your case, insurance covered it all with no fault. (I can’t remember if there was a deductible. I don’t think so.)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I got my first one with a car a few years ago. I’ve had some close calls, but this one was fast. I pulled around a large female down in the road, and this little guy came tearing out of the brush. I never even had a chance to lift and he was into my bumper. Died instantly. I pounded the bumper out with a hammer and it was fine. Not so much for the little guy.

Cruiser's avatar

I will add that the burgeoning deer population where I live has also enabled the coyote population to explode. I live in a suburban area where I have both deer and coyotes now in my yard and the coyotes walk in packs down the middle of the road in broad daylight.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Cruiser One benefit of the coyotes is less woodchucks. They know how to hunt them.

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, @Cruiser. The coyotes appear to be as overpopulated as the deer. Maybe more so. I see coyotes in broad daylight more often than deer.

Cruiser's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe We don’t have woodchucks outside Chicago. We also have a lot less tiny dogs in the neighborhood. Earlier this summer a neighbor watched in horror as an owl took off with their little dog. Stuff I never imagined I would see where I live.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Tiny dogs don’t last long around here. And the owls are also hell on cats. It’s not a safe neighborhood for small mammals.

ibstubro's avatar

The poor bunnies don’t stand a chance.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have trail camera photos taken on my property of a coywolf (Eastern coyote) dragging and dismembering a deer in the snow. It is not a pretty sight. If they can take down a 150 pound deer they can take down a similarly sized schlub dressed in a snow suit, waddling in snow up to his shins.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus “And what happened to the predators that once controlled the population? ”“It is human impact that causes this problem.”

Yes, that’s exactly what I said. The only reason I posted in response to your comment is that you were blaming deer overpopulation specifically on the impact of humans on deer habitat. It’s not what we’ve done to deer habitat that is the problem. It’s what we’ve done to predator populations, partly by reducing their habitat, but mostly by deliberately hunting them to extirpation.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

The answer to this problem seems simple to me and I don’t understand why it isn’t done more often. Cull the herds. Culling isn’t simply the state issuing a certain amount of licenses for a certain amount of kills to any hunter that can afford the cost. Culling includes taking out the stragglers, weak and diseased part of the population then, if necessary, reducing the population even further to a level appropriate for the area carrying capacity and that which can be controlled by the existing predators.

I personally think this should be managed by Fish and Wildlife with contract professionals, biologists and hunters who know what to look for. In areas where it is appropriate, predators should be brought in. Healthy meat can be sold by pre-arrangement with a large grocery chain such as Safeway, A&P, or Publix to defray costs. As human encroachment continues—and it will: in just three years 2 million new humans have arrived increasing the earth’s population from 7 billion to 7.2 billion—the herbivore population must be incrementally reduced further as will the predator population. This is wildlife management.

Yellowstone National Forest, for example, have been doing this for a couple of generations. They’ve imported various predators, pairs of cougars and most notably a few packs of wolves from Canada just a few years ago. But this has caused controversy with the local ranchers. Sheep and cattle are easy pickings and predators are opportunists by nature. Some ranchers claim the wolves ignore the intended wild herbivore population and now specialize in their livestock. They claim the feds, with the best intentions, have created another monster. But it’s a federal program and the ranchers can’t do much about it but illegally poach the wolves, pay the fines and consider it all the cost of doing business

What to do, what to do?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

^^Edit: 200 million new humans have arrived on earth since October, 2011.

JLeslie's avatar

Side note: I just looked out the window and the deer are changing their coats to grey. Hunting season is upon us.

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