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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Deer, Humans, and Vegetation: A Case Study of Deer Management in the Chicago Metropolitan Area


Many natural resource agencies are managing white-tailed deer populations in suburban areas and require information about deer populations, deer impacts on vegetation, and human preferences toward deer and deer management to support decision making. We utilized a multi-faceted approach to investigate common obstacles in suburban deer management and discuss findings from our study based in the Chicago Metropolitan Area during 2007-2011. We discuss the need for managers to examine suburban deer populations and management issues at a broader scale (i.e., countywide versus single community) and promote proactive deer management in lieu of the conventional paradigm of beginning management only when deer populations have become overabundant. Discussion topics include practicality and costs of deer density estimation and herbivory monitoring techniques over multiple plant communities and numerous study sites. In addition, we illustrate how a comprehensive human dimensions survey can identify determinants that contribute to the public’s perceptions of deer density and assess the acceptability, conflict, and beliefs regarding deer management methods. Lastly, we describe the relationship between landscape characteristics and deer density; this information can be utilized to determine suburban lands that may be prone to high deer densities and inform land management practices. Our work provides suburban natural resource managers with techniques to identify management practices supported by their public constituents and information useful for managing deer populations.

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