Suburban Whitetail Management of North Georgia
Interesting facts about Whitetail deer and how they effect our lives.
In areas of overpopulation, deer cause an over browsing affect called a "browse line". In areas with a browse line,
most plant species below the browse line are stripped bare damaging the habitat for many species. These brows
lines can be from four to six feet high. Deer establish a territory and will not leave it. Deer are known to starve rather
than leave their domain. Just 2 deer without predation can produce a herd of up to 35 deer in just 7 years.
Deer can live up to 12 years in the wild. Under optimal conditions without regulating factors like predators or
hunting, deer populations can double in size annually. Two of the considerations used when establishing a deer
management plan are Biological Carrying Capacity (BCC) and Cultural Carrying Capacity (CCC).
Deer Damage and Problems
A recent survey of U.S. farm leaders revealed that as many as 56% believed they had suffered crop damage by
wildlife and the Whitetail deer was named as the primary culprit. Pennsylvania farmers suffer crop damage of an
estimated $30 million annually, Wisconsin estimates it's farmers are hit for $37 million annually. Back in 1995,
conservative estimates place deer-car collisions in the us at over 500,000 annually.Vehicle damage is in the
hundreds of millions of dollars. In Georgia alone, there are 51,000 accidents! The annual damage in New Jersey
alone is estimated to exceed $10 million dollars. These accidents resulted in thousands of injuries and over 100
deaths. Suburban home owners spend thousands of dollars replacing landscaping plants defoliated or damaged by
deer. In 1995, Lyme disease was considered to be the fastest growing infectious disease next to AIDS. Some
scientists see a strong link between high deer densities and Lyme disease. In Pennsylvania, a state that tracks
deer-vehicle collisions, there are over 40,000 deer-vehicle collisions annually. Based on Pennsylvania's experience,
VDGIF conservatively estimates the annual vehicle damage caused deer-vehicle collisions to exceed 25 million
dollars. Even more important is the cost in human life. During the 1985-1994 period, 12 fatalities were reported as
a result of deer-vehicle collisions in Georgia.
The burgeoning Whitetail deer population throughout the suburban areas of Georgia is resulting in an increasing
number of conflicts between deer and people. The most serious of these are collisions between automobiles and
deer. These can result in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and in some cases even death.
Another area of concern involves health issues. Whitetail deer are the primary host to deer ticks, the carrier of
several human diseases. The best known of these is Lyme Disease but ticks also carry other diseases with even
more grave consequences. In addition to tick borne diseases, deer herds can become infected with other diseases
that at this time are not known to effect humans like EHD. Diseases similar to EHD are found in domestic animals
like horses, cattle, and sheep. Although not firmly established, there is some concern that inter-species transfer is
possible from deer to horses. Top
Property damage is another result of the growing Whitetail population. Home gardens and landscaping are
expensive in both financial terms and in the homeowners time and efforts in maintenance. Even when natural foods
abound in local area, deer are often attracted to the rich succulent plants of the backyard landscape. Natural foods
are limited by the natural pH and nutrients of the soil and are in competition with neighboring plants for sunlight. In
the backyard, trees, plants, and gardens are usually enhanced by things like pH normalization, fertilizer, and
pruning. In addition, the woodlot openings created by our home sites provide additional sunlight to our domestic
plantings. When natural food supplies are limited either seasonally or by over use by deer, the backyard becomes a
magnet for deer. Top
Whitetail deer in large numbers can cause significant habitat damage even on relatively large tracks of land like
some of our parks. Deer are primarily browsers. Over browsing in an area can have a negative environmental
impact. Thick and diverse near ground cover provides the nesting sites needed by many species of birds. It also
provides food for other animals. Over browsing creates an unbalanced situation. Some browsing tolerant plant
species flourish at the expense and even elimination of other less tolerant species. Red Top Mtn State Park would
be an example of this type of problem.Top
Animal Rights, Stewardship, and Exploitation
It is a simple fact of life today that people in today's society have very diverse viewpoints concerning the relationship
between man, nature, and the environment. As America has become first urbanized, then suburbanized, the
percentage of Americans working on farms has diminished greatly. Farm life allowed people to gain first hand
experience with animals from many different perspectives. The family dog was a faithful friend and companion as
well as a working asset on the farm. Livestock were a precious resource. They were managed and tended with care
but their eventual slaughter provided both much needed food and income to the farm. Wildlife was viewed as both
and asset as well as a competitor. Bees pollinated the crops, worms composted and aerated the soil, deer fed on
crops and coyotes, wolves, and foxes would pray on livestock. Other wildlife species like squirrels and songbirds
were viewed as neutral.
For many years as cities and suburbs grew, peoples' close up experience with animals became more and more
limited to life with the family pet. It is no wonder that over time the view of many Americans toward animals has
changed. To some, they are all warm and furry creatures needing help and protection. Others take an even more
extreme view, anthropomorphizing animals and bestowing "rights" on them. Others, even more extreme, view these
"Animal Rights" as eclipsing the rights of man.
On the other side of the coin we have exploitation of the environment. Wolves and other predatory animals were
hunted, trapped, and poisoned to near extinction. Some unregulated mining companies stripped the land in search
of coal, polluted streams and rivers with sulfur mine drainage, with only profits in mind. There are many other
examples of exploitation of the environment too numerous to enumerate.
Although we may not agree with those who promote concepts of exploitation, or with those extolling the "Animal
Rights" we do support their rights within the law to promote their positions. We support the position of stewardship.
The riches of the natural world are not ours to exploit. On the other hand, we don't believe that man can or should
abstain from wisely using these natural wonders. We support the concept of stewardship by responsible
non-confrontational action. As we seek to apply this to the Whitetail herd in Georgia, we consult with biologists. We
take special precautions to avoid offending the sensibilities of those who find hunting and the killing of animals
© 2001 SWMNGA, Inc.