Deer Management Plan


The first step in developing your deer management plan is to identify the carrying capacity for the habitat on your property.  One of the biggest problems facing whitetail populations is competition for available food sources by deer, livestock, and other wildlife species.  Excessive populations of any of these animals will have detrimental effects upon the others, and the resulting deer habitat.  The carrying capacity is the maximum population level that still prevents damage to the habitat.

The importance of your deer management plan – maintaining deer at carrying capacity – by the direct harvest of surplus deer cannot be stressed enough.  The same goes for livestock and competing wildlife species; they must also be maintained within the bounds of the habitat’s carrying capacity.  The (obvious) key to a deer management plan is to provide as much food as your deer population needs.  There are two solutions to this problem: you may increase the amount of food, or decrease the population of deer.

There are a wide variety of variables in a deer management plan that will push you towards one strategy or the other.  In both cases, the deer populations will most likely need to be reduced first, which is usually the second item addressed any deer management plan.  This is not always the case, however, and population surveys will need to be taken before you start thinning the herds by way of trigger pulls.  Population surveys must take into account all grazing and browsing animals on the property in order to determine the correct carrying capacity.  Understanding the diversity of vegetation on your property is the key to meeting cover and food requirements.  Basic deer cover needs are low-growing vegetation for adequate hiding to protect fawns, mid-level vegetation or escape cover to provide protection from predators, and larger trees and shrubs to protect deer from weather extremes.  At Westervelt Wildlife Services, your deer management plan will always address habitat diversity and vegetation management.

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