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Assessment of movement patterns, harvest strategies, and human dimensions of a suburban deer population in Greenwich, Connecticut

This research was primarily funded by the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Natural Resources through the Wildlife Restoration Grants Program.

Overabundant populations of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in suburban areas often are associated with high incidences of Lyme disease in humans, increased damage to landscape plantings, and increased risk of deer-vehicle accidents. The need to develop management strategies that are both effective and acceptable to homeowners and hunters is important. The overall objective of this study was to develop effective strategies for managing deer in urban-suburban communities. Specific objectives were to: 1) develop a dynamic model to predict the effectiveness of different hunt strategies, 2) assess hunter attitudes and willingness to use non-traditional management strategies, 3) assess public attitudes about deer and deer management, and 4) evaluate landscape effects on deer movements.

Data on deer population size and composition were collected using spotlight surveys and aerial deer surveys. Data on hunter attitudes and success were collected using mail surveys and kill report cards. Data on attitudes and knowledge of residents about deer were collected using mail surveys. Data on landscape effects on deer movements were collected using radio telemetry and a geographic information system.

The most effective harvest strategy was to create incentive programs for hunters to harvest a portion of the antlerless deer that they observed, but decided not to shoot. Establishing a special crossbow season outside the existing archery season would provide an effective tool for hunters and minimize opposition by traditional bow hunters. Legalizing hunting over bait could increase harvest opportunities, especially in developed landscapes. Hunter access would improve if hunters completed a state-certified bowhunter safety course, identified hunting-related concerns of homeowners, and suggested self-restrictions to accommodate homeowner concerns. Landscape metrics explained about half the variation in deer home range size, but predictor variables changed as acorn abundance changed. Deer core areas were comprised of many different properties of relatively small size, limiting hunter mobility. No-hunt buffers limited firearms hunting and should be reduced to increase hunter access to deer, yet maintain reasonable safety zones. Towns should develop regional strategies and obtain regional support, rather than a town-wide strategy. Strategies should be cost effective and provide homeowners with relief from deer overabundance within 3–5 years.

Publications generated from this research:

Kilpatrick, H. J., A. M. LaBonte, and J. S. Barclay. 2011. Effects of landscape and land-ownership patterns on deer movements in a suburban community. Wildlife Society Bulletin: 35:227-234.

Kilpatrick, H. J., A. M. LaBonte, and J. S. Barclay. 2010. Use of Bait to Increase Archery Deer Harvest in an Urban–Suburban Landscape. Journal Wildlife Management. 74:714-718

Kilpatrick, H. J., A. M. LaBonte, and J. S. Barclay. 2007. Acceptance of deer management strategies by suburban homeowners and bowhunters. Journal Wildlife Management. 71: 2095-2010.

Kilpatrick, H. J., A. M. LaBonte, and J. S. Barclay. 2007. Factors affecting bowhunter access in suburban areas. Journal Wildlife Management. 71:2103-2105.

Kilpatrick, H. J., A. M. LaBonte, and J. S. Barclay. 2005. Factors affecting harvest reporting rates for white-tailed deer. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 33:974-980.

Kilpatrick, H. J., A. M. LaBonte, J. S. Barclay and G. Warner. 2004. Assessing strategies to improve bowhunting as an urban deer management tool. Wildlife Society Bulletin 32:1177-1184

Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Center
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
University of Connecticut
1376 Storrs Road, Unit 4087