Legal Hunting Of White-Tailed Deer With Dogs: Biology, Sociology And Management

In recent years hunting white-tailed deer with dogs, a tradition in many parts of the South, has been the subject of much controversy, but this type of hunting has received little scientific research and there is little data upon which decisions can be based. The effects of dogs on behavior, movements and welfare of 57 different radio-equipped deer in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina were studied. Six of these animals were experimentally chased with hunting dogs in a way designed to simulate very intensive dog hunting. Information from telemetric and pen studies, field observations, kill data and other sources was analyzed to evaluate the effects of hunting with dogs on reproduction, mortality and harvest efficiency. Our data do not support the contention that dogs are in any way a limiting factor on deer populations in the areas we have studied. None of the experimentally chased deer were caught by dogs, and there was no evidence of detrimental changes in behavior or other ill effects. Low population densities in some dog-hunted areas are attributed to illegal hunting and low carrying capacity. Conventional management attitudes derived from experience in areas where dog-hunting is illegal may not be applicable to situations in which deer are traditionally hunted with dogs. Conditions vary from area to area, and management decisions should be based on local situations. Some areas are biologically and sociologically suitable for legal hunting with dogs, others are not. In general, dog-hunting should not be encouraged in areas where legal dog-hunting is not traditional.

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