The Effects Of Overpopulation And Hunting On The Fort Knox Deer Herd

The Fort Knox Military Reservation began to show signs of overbrowsing eight years after stocking with white-tailed deer (Odicoileua virginianus). Data collected annually on the reservation's deer herd during the deer hunting season indicated a rapid decline of the deer's physical condition as the wintering population increased from 5,500 to 9,000 over the period 1962-1965 and the deer range became overpopulated. Average dressed weights of yearling bucks and fawns decreased 16-18% while those of yearling does decreased 11% from 1958-1965. Average antler beam diameters of yearling bucks deteriorated 18% and "spiked" yearlings increased from 10% to 24% from 1960 to 1965. The reproductive rate dropped 47% from 1960 to 1965. Selective buck hunting during conservative "any deer" seasons reduced the buck:doe ratio among wintering deer from 106:100 in 1962 to 68:100 in 1966. Data indicated a crippling rate of one deer for every four deer legally harvested in 1965 and 1966. A thinning of the deer density in overpopulated areas in 1965 resulted in a partial recovery of antler development, body weight and productivity in 1966 in spite of the wintering population size remaining approximately the same as the previous year. The present deer management policy is based on the population dynamics of the past six years.

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