Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Abstract

Since the early 19th century, deer populations across the nation have increased due to a variety of different anthropogenically driven environmental as well as political circumstances. In many places, these deer populations have exceeded both the ecological as well as social carrying capacity. Exceeding these capacities leads to significant negative effects on the ecosystem as well as the general public leading to overall biodiversity loss and an increase in deer-related diseases among other impacts. In our study, we quantified the local white-tailed deer density in the Town of Hamilton, New York in order to investigate whether local deer populations have reached unsustainable levels. If so, we hope to understand the ecological, medical, social, and economic impact of the overabundant deer population in the town and propose the most suitable and effective deer management strategies for the area. We conducted a roadside survey covering a total of 24 km2 out of 107 km2 (22.38%) of the town for four consecutive days before the start of hunting season during dusk for a total of 63 observation hours. A threshold at which deer become overabundant and were associated with significant, negative ecosystem impacts was chosen based on previous studies done in areas similar to the Town of Hamilton, NY. We predicted that land use changes in the past century as well as restricted hunting availability have led to an unsustainable deer population in the area. As predicted, at an average of 16.4 deer/km2, deer population levels in the area exceed our conservative threshold of 7.7 deer/km2 (t11 =3.32, p =0.00341), indicating that the local deer population is overabundant. In addition, we found that Lyme disease is the most significant deer related disease that afflicts humans in Madison County.

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