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Reduction and maintenance of a white-tailed deer herd in central Massachusetts

Reduction and maintenance of a white-tailed deer herd in central Massachusetts

Journal of Wildlife Management 71(5): 1585-1593

Controlled public hunts have been used in a variety of settings to reduce overabundant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herds. We present the results of a large-scale (160 km(2)) controlled hunt at Quabbin Reservation (QR) in central Massachusetts, USA. The QR was divided into 5 hunt zones. Hunting was initiated in each zone from 1991 to 1994 and continued through 2004. The management goal was to achieve posthunt deer densities of 4 deer/km(2). Initial estimated deer densities in each zone ranged from 11.4 deer/km(2) to 27.6 deer/km(2). The management goals were reached in each zone after 2-4 years of hunting. Posthunt populations were maintained at or below the goal even though total hunter effort was reduced. Hunters were not required to harvest antlerless deer, but antlerless deer comprised 55-83% of the harvest each year. We simulated the effects of 5 years without hunting on deer populations. The simulated deer population exceeded management goals after 2 years. Our results demonstrate that controlled public deer hunts can effectively reduce deer populations and maintain them at desired levels over large areas with minimal hunter restrictions. Managers should prepare stakeholders during the hunt planning process for the need to continue overall harvest rates of > 30% during the maintenance phase of a deer management program.

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Accession: 014163987

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DOI: 10.2193/2006-490

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