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Facts on Deer Population at HLR

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The following article contains a wealth of well-researched information about white-tail deer, the species which currently resides in Holly Lake Ranch. The author is Ann Reynolds, who headed up the recent Holly Lake deer survey, results of which will be made public shortly.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/
· In 2006 an estimated 4 million deer resided in Texas.

· Deer do not migrate, but remain in an area around one square kilometer in size (about 7 square city blocks) year round.

· Does will breed each year giving birth seven months later. Most does, when they reach about one and a half years of age, give birth to a single fawn. From then on, if enough food is available, the doe will have twin fawns each year until she is six or seven years old. White-tailed deer are known for producing twins. Statewide, over half of the does examined had twins.

· Deer eat mostly browse (leaves, twigs, young shoots of woody plants, and vines) and forbs (weeds and other broadleaf flowering plants). They eat very little grass, and usually only when it is green and tender. Acorns also are an important food when they are available.

· The most efficient means of insuring adequate nutrition is by providing a variety of browse plants as well as forbs.

· Corn is low in protein (approximately seven to ten percent) and high in carbohydrates. Corn does not provide adequate protein levels needed for development of bone and muscle; however, corn may be used as an energy supplement during very cold period of the winter.

· A deer must obtain at least 6 to 7 percent crude protein diet just to maintain rumen function. A diet of less that 10 percent protein will result in inferior animals and poor antler development. Deer need a daily diet of 12 to 16 percent protein for optimum development of bone and muscle.

· Feeding deer also leads to more fawns being born, and while that may sound desirable, it can lead to an overpopulation which usually means starvation for many animals.

· Deer densities above range carrying capacities often have lower fawn crops, smaller body weights, and poorer quality antlers.

· In many areas of the state, deer population densities have exceeded the land's ability to sustain them.

· Unnaturally high deer densities can present significant ecological, social, and economic problems for a variety of stakeholders.

· Excessive deer densities are known to cause long-term damage to wildlife habitats. Overabundant deer herds can extirpate preferred plant species, alter habitat structures, and disrupt natural succession of plant communities.

· As deer populations over utilize available resources, herd health inevitably declines. Increased parasite loads and declines in body weight, antler production, and fawn recruitment are often followed by large-scale deer "die offs."

· Each year in the US, about 29,000 people are injured and more than 200 people are killed in deer/vehicle collisions. An estimated 1.5 million deer are killed, annually, resulting in more than $ 1 billion in property damage (Conover 2002).

· White-tailed deer are the primary hosts for black-legged ticks, or deer ticks (Ixodes sp.). These ticks are responsible for transmitting the causative agent of Lyme disease to humans. According to Conover (2002), more than 13,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported, annually. Research has shown increased tick abundance and more human disease occurrences in areas with high deer densities.

· Aggressive encounters between people and deer are relatively uncommon. Nonetheless, 5 - 10 people are killed annually in the U.S. by aggressive bucks.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension Service - http://www.cce.cornell.edu/
· Many communities are facing the challenge of managing locally-overabundant deer herds in areas closed to hunting.  Fencing and repellents can help manage site-specific problems; however these methods may just move deer and potential damage to other locations.  As long as adequate food resources are available, deer populations can double in size every 2-3 years.  Eventually some form of population management is needed to control herd growth and maintain deer numbers within the social carrying capacity. Swihart, R. K. and A. J. DeNicola.  1997.  Public involvement, science, management, and the overabundance of deer: Can we avoid a hostage crisis?  Wildlife Society Bulletin 25:382-387.

· Deer populations will increase if mortality is low and food is abundant, and they can double in size every two to three years. Wildlife Management Fact Sheet by Paul D. Curtis and Kristi L. Sullivan, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Wildlife Management Program.

US Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resources

· An overpopulation of deer has far reaching effects. The incidences of injury to humans due to attacks by buck (male) deer are on the rise in Texas. Unfortunately, reports of encounters with aggressive buck deer are not "stories" as they were once regarded. Traffic accidents with deer are also on the rise, causing an average of $1500 in damages per incident. These are in addition to the adverse effects on the deer, other wildlife and the environment.

· Both plants and animals are important to ecosystems. Decreased plant populations lead to loss of plant and animal species and a gross alteration of native plant communities. These communities provide food for many animals, prevent erosion and control evaporation rate of water. Observations indicate that white-tailed deer are removing selected species of plants, and that deer grazing is reducing total plant species diversity (number of species) and total ground cover. Plants are the foundation of the ecosystem's food chain. When this foundation begins to crumble, all other levels of the food chain and other species of wildlife including insects, birds and mammals are affected. Too many deer threaten the health of native ecosystems.

· A key sign of overpopulation is the appearance of a browse line (reduced density of vegetation up to fifty inches above ground level).

· Small body size and poor antler development is a result of poor nutrition due to overpopulation.

· The buck to doe ratio should never exceed 1:3 and ratios of 1:2 or 1:1 are preferred


· North American male deer (also known as a buck) usually weighs from 130 to 300 pounds (60 to 130 kg) but, in rare cases, bucks in excess of 375 pounds (159 kg) have been recorded. The record-sized White-tailed Deer weighed just over 500 pounds and was found in Minnesota. The female (doe) usually weighs from 90 to 200 pounds

· The white-tailed deer is a ruminant, which means it has a four-chambered stomach. Each chamber has a different and specific function that allows it to quickly eat a variety of different food, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover.


· White-tailed deer are herbivores, leisurely grazing on most available plant foods. Their stomachs allow them to digest a varied diet, including leaves, twigs, fruits and nuts, grass, corn, alfalfa, and even lichens and other fungi. Occasionally venturing out in the daylight hours, white-tailed deer are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, browsing mainly at dawn and dusk.

Biology and Ecology of the Whitetailed Deer by 1A Hunting in Texas Guide Service

· Deer have microorganisms living in their digestive system that break down the food to where the deer can absorb the nutrition from it. It takes different types of organisms to break down each type of food, so a deer must switch from one food source to another slowly, so that specific organism can build up to the point where that food can be used. A deer can actually starve with a belly full of food if that's not what it has been eating lately.

· Diseases are fairly common causes of death in wild whitetails, especially among the very young and the very old. The most common are pnuemonia, bluetongue, encephilitis, anthrax and tuberculosis. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is becoming a real concern. It started in a captive herd of elk and has since spread to wild herds of cervid in at least seven states. Complications from parasitic infestations, such as ticks, nematodes and worms, are also hard on fawns. Being hit by cars is a big problem when whitetail live near or in human population centers. Getting caught in a fence has resulted in many a dead deer, as well. Other injuries, especially those received in buck fights, often lead to infection and then death. Of course, hunters, take a large share of the adult deer that die. In some states, as high as 80% of all antlered bucks are harvested each year. In Texas, it is more like 20-25% of antlered whitetailed bucks, and about 12-15% of antlerless whitetail deer.


· Ecosystem Roles - White-tailed deer can greatly influence the composition of plant communities through their grazing, especially where they are abundant. In severe winters white-tailed deer can be responsible for girdling and killing large numbers of trees. White-tailed deer are also important prey animals for a number of large predators.


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