The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

Oh Deer! Environmental Forum 2010

Consensus Position Statements






Horizons 4-H

          We are the stakeholders of the forest, and this is what we’ve decided. The deer population has obviously grown out of control, and we know we must do something soon to preserve natural order in the forest. So then the question arises: what should we do? 

          There are many possible solutions: Reintroduce some natural predators, increase the hunting limits, implement birth control, fence the deer out of selected forest areas, or even relocating them. With so many varied choices it is difficult to choose among them. Each has its pros and its cons, its upsides and downsides, but which will end up doing the most overall good? That is why we have to study them all, to come up with the best decision for everyone. It won’t be easy, and there is no guarantee that our solution will ACTUALLY be perfect. But we will do the best we can, and hope it works out. So here it is, our solution and how we reached it. 

          Birth control was the first possibility. Each deer would need two doses of it the first year, plus an additional booster every year that follows. This would require time and resources, as we would need to tag and track the deer, so as to ensure that we got them all. Additionally the medicine itself would be quite expensive. So we quickly decided against that method of population control.

          Next we considered the fences to keep the deer out of select areas. But how many people have had deer around them before? They jump fences. Which isn’t to say that these particular fences would necessarily be that easy to jump, but deer are nimble animals. The deer population outside the fences will be even more dense than before, and consequently will have less food. So when all of their favorite food begins to grow within the fenced-in areas, they are going to want to get in. Even if the deer can’t get in, other animals will be kept outside of this fence as well, therefore being deprived of the newly balanced habitat. If only a very few animals can get within the fence to enjoy the abundant growth, how will that be helpful? We chose not to implement this idea.

          Relocating the deer. Who would EVER think that was a good idea? It will simply move the population problem elsewhere, and will do no real long term good. Sure, it will get the problem off our plate for now. But it will just put it on someone else’s, which will have the same problems for the environment, just in a different location. How lazy and self-centered can you be that this idea appeals to you? Not to mention that if we did do that, obviously the living situation in our area is such that it allows and encourages rapid multiplication of the deer population as it is, so they would most likely quickly reproduce and we would be right back where we started, but with the additional problem of wherever else we moved the deer to. We have made the decision that this solution would do more harm then help.

          So then that leaves us with reintroduction of natural predators, and increasing the hunting limits. We believe both solutions will be helpful, if implemented carefully and correctly. Here is how we plan to do that. 

          Reintroducing natural predators... Esteban the deer was against this (due to concerns of predators attacking baby deer), but he was overruled by his teammates, the bobcat and the forest. Predators such as coyotes, bobcats, etc., would definitely decrease the population. But they would have to be carefully managed as well. If their own population goes out of control, not only would the deer then drop dramatically and indeed be under-populated, other species such as rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and many other herbivorous mammals would suffer as well. In addition, we must be aware of the possibility that such predators might attack human children if they are introduced near urban areas. They may be less likely to do so if they have an abundant food supply in the forest, but it is a potential threat that should be considered. So we would have to be very careful to manage them in the same way we are managing the deer, so as to maintain a harmonious balance. This would be difficult, but it WOULD achieve our objective (with only a few protests from Esteban) of reducing the deer population without having a negative impact on the environment. So that is the first solution we are planning to use.

          The second is increasing the hunting limit. But it must be done carefully. We have come to find that the deer population in Maryland is somewhere in the upper two hundred thousands annually. In addition, the annual number of deer harvested is at one hundred thousand. So we are obviously reducing the population nearly by half every hunting season. Shouldn’t that be enough? The answer is no. The deer reproduce at such a rapid rate that even taking down half of their population yearly is not nearly enough. Here’s why: the deer are in such a happy and pleasant state of mind right now, they are reproducing very quickly. Conditions are right for them to have many babies, often even twins. Therefore every time we cut their population in half, they double it again. So we agree that the hunting limit needs to be increased. Hunters should definitely still only be allowed to hunt during the fall, but they should have some new rules to follow. Per every one antlered deer a hunter takes down, he should also take three antlerless deer. If hunters only hunt antlered deer, one buck can impregnate quite a few doe, whereas if there is an about equal number of doe and bucks, or even MORE bucks than doe, that reduces the possible number of deer babies that can be born. Even Esteban supports this practice, as it will cut down on the population in a way that does not prey on the young. 

          So that is our total solution. It may not be perfect, but it has its good parts. We hope you will take it into consideration.