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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Evaluation of Aggressive White-tailed Deer Behavior on a College Campus


The Berry College campus has a population of white-tailed deer habituated to the presence of humans. One area of the campus contains residential houses, and apartments for faculty and staff. In this area, there have been numerous anecdotal reports, as well as photographic and video evidence, of white-tailed deer exhibiting aggressive behavior, particularly toward dogs being walked on leashes. In addition, deer following individuals or circling humans at a distance, making them uncomfortable, have been reported. The objective of this study was to document and establish the locations, frequency, and types of behaviors exhibited by deer in response to humans walking with and without leashed dogs. During the summer of 2019, a total of 13 instances of aggressive behavior were encountered by residents of the area and the investigators. In a majority of the events, (n = 12), deer would follow individuals with their dogs an average distance of 212.7 m ± 24.8 (100%), circle in front of the individuals, and stop in the walking path (50%), forcing them to turn another direction or be subjected to warning snorts or grinding teeth (33%), and/or pawing behavior (33%). We had proposed to administer a negative reinforcement stimulus in the form of impact of a needleless paint-marking dart delivered by a tranquilizer dart gun. It was hypothesized that the negative reinforcement might reduce the likelihood of individual deer repeating the aggressive behavior. However, no deer presented the aggressive behavior when researchers were carrying the tranquilizer dart gun. The investigators are planning on continuation of this project in 2020.

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