Efficacy of a Controlled Hunt for Managing White-tailed Deer on Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area, Cecil County, Maryland

As exurbia becomes more dominant in our landscape, the number of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations in parklands surrounded by housing increases and creates new challenges in deer management. Traditional harvest regimes often are not possible in areas with heavy human use. Instead, many managers use controlled hunts to reduce deer abundance. We studied the efficacy of a two-day controlled shotgun hunt on Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area, Cecil County, Maryland. Deer density was 48 deer/km2, adult sex ratio was 5.3 does/buck (SE = 1.45), and fawn-doe ratio was 0.88 fawns/doe (SE = 0.054). The average fecundity for adults, yearlings, and fawns were 1.76, 1.44, and 0.06 fetuses/doe, respectively. Survival rate of adult does was 0.66 (SE = 0.07), with harvest as the most prominent mortality cause (85.7%), followed by deer auto collisions (14.3%). To examine the effect of the controlled hunt, we created a female-based population model, which included age-structured fecundity and survival rates. The model indicated the Fair Hill NRMA deer population was relatively stable (average λ = 0.981). To decrease the deer density on Fair Hill NRMA, doe survival must remain consistently <0.66 because survival rates ≥0.66 allowed for stable or increasing deer abundance. We recommend adding an archery harvest on Fair Hill NRMA to increase the mortality rate and keep the doe survival <66% to reduce deer density.

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