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Monday, February 8, 2010

More Perspectives on Deer Management

A friend forwarded a recent news story from NPR on how some communities in Connecticut are handling deer over population.  Among the highlights of the story is the fact that the deer population in the US has mushroomed from half million to over 17 million in just the past 20 years.  The wildlife manager quoted in the story also indicates that an ideal population of deer is between 8 and 15 per square mile.  If this metric holds up, Fort Thomas (with just under 6 square miles of area) should not have any more than between 48 and 90 deer.  I don't know about you but even with 2 years of semi-effective deer management we have to have a multiple of that range.

I mentioned in an article in late December about Fort Thomas' efforts to count or baseline the deer population using arial photography.  This is a good step by the city with a minimal cost of $8,000 but what happens when the inevitable results show a population well in excess of the range cited above?  Do we move to sharp shooters or the original plan of police officers wondering the woods hunting for deer?

Keep in mind that I am not advocating any of the means listed above but with those kinds of numbers quoted in the NPR story this is an indicator that deer management is going to be a challenge that Fort Thomas will continue to struggle with.  Regardless of the effectiveness of the current program that will end shortly.  While Fort Thomas may be aggressive in thinning the herd so to speak neighboring communities such as Southgate, Wilder, and Highland Heights that do not have a plan will cause the population to spill back into Fort Thomas eventually. 

The story also underscores the need to continue to find better and safer ways to manage the population.  Contraception is expensive and results have been sporadic at best.  One community member was quoted in the article as mentioning fencing and other options proposed a few years ago in Fort Thomas.

Continuing the discussion of metrics I ran across a deer management plan from Fremont Michigan that is titled "Long-term Community Deer Management Plan" that focuses on a broad array of means to control the deer population.  This is a comprehensive plan that includes habitat management and engages the community in the solutions.  The plan also sets a target population at a more realistic 25 - 35 per square mile.  All of which brings up a great question - what is the goal of the Fort Thomas plan?  Is there a specific target population?  What mechanisms beyond hunting will create a long-term sustainable plan?


  1. What's the basis for assuming we have more than 8-15 per square mile? Without a study you can only guess but I'd imagine the Ft Thomas deer population to be closer to 48 than 90. Much less a multiplier of that. You may see deer all of the time but they are probably the same deer all the time.

  2. Update on the results of the count:

    37 deer per square mile. While it was not 15 per sq mile like the NPR article suggested it is at the high end of the acceptable range as outlined in other deer management programs. I am not sure this is enough justification to continue with hunting within the city limits.