Management of White-tailed Deer in National Parks

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The deer (Odocoileus spp.) may be one of the most valued and the most viewed mammalian wildlife species in North America. Millions of outdoor visitors savor the sights of deer and try to capture them on film. State fish and game agencies regard deer as a renewable, harvestable resource for viewing and hunting. Sport hunters annually bag about 1 million mule deer (O. hemionus) and 2 million white-tailed deer (O. virginianus). However, deer may cause profound damage by browsing on garden vegetables, flowers, ornamental bushes, and crops. Collisions of automobiles with deer in some areas of the country have increased to alarming levels. In some national parks, deer are a natural resource that may have to be managed. About 50 units in the National Park System in the eastern United States and in the Midwest have identified possible or potential conflicts between the management goals and objectives of parks and white-tailed deer. Density and Distribution of White-tailed Deer An estimated 23-40 million white-tailed deer inhabited North America before the arrival of Europeans. An estimated 14-20 millions are believed to inhabit the United States today. The species occurs throughout the conterminous United States except in some parts of the Southwest. It is the only species of Odocoileus in the North Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, National Capitol, and Southeast regions of the National Park Service. Since the late 1950s, densities of white-tailed deer in many areas of the eastern United States have increased to previously unattained levels and the distribution across the former range has changed drastically. The causes of the changes are various. For example, continuing fragmentation of forested lands into agricultural, suburban, and other t... ... middle of paper ... ...rcumstances. Research Current research on white-tailed deer in the National Park Service is primarily into the role and possible effects of the animals on naturally functioning ecosystems and the effects of the animals on historical and cultural scenes. More than 20 site-specific studies of white-tailed deer were conducted in the past 10 years. Other research has been into the interrelations of deer and vegetation, population densities, responses of plant species to browsing by deer, the effects of deer on threatened and endangered plants and animals, and the deer as reservoirs of diseases such as lyme disease. For the coordination of research and management of white-tailed deer, the National Park Service established an interregional white-tailed deer team. The team assists parks with developing objectives, monitoring of deer, and criteria for judging conflicts.

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