Recommended Urban/Suburban Deer Density

A Community Decision

Urban Deer Management in Wisconsin [PDF]  “Urban Deer Management in Wisconsin” Wisconsin Urban and Community Forests, A Quarterly Newsletter of the Wisconsin department of Natural Resources Forestry Program. Volume 8, No. 1, Spring, 2000, p. 1 
The number of deer that a community wants is a community decision. There is no biologically correct number. The biological carrying capacity of many of our urban areas can be over 100 deer per square mile. What the community needs to determine is the social carrying capacity, —how many deer the citizens are willing to tolerate.

Deer hunts coming to Bloomington June 30, 2012 Indiana, The Bloomington Alternative
... urban ecosystems, in fact, are good for the deer, according to the Bloomington task force... "Indeed, due to the use of fertilizers, plants in suburban yards are often more nutrient-rich than food found in the forest." ... "It is likely that the local urban environment could actually support many more deer than it currently does," the task force website says. "When it comes to urban deer, wildlife biologists often advise that instead of asking how many deer an urban environment could biologically support, the more salient task is assessing how many deer a community finds acceptable – the social carrying capacity.” 

Large numbers of whitetail deer are hard to figure October 26, 2013 Florida, Florida Times-Union
...“Years ago we thought we knew how many deer the land could support, and biologists offered numbers of whitetails per square mile as a maximum — ‘carrying capacity’ in other words,” explains Illinois deer biologist Paul Shelton. “But in many areas of the U.S. we don’t know what the true ‘biological deer carrying capacity’ of land actually is because whitetail numbers would never be allowed to reach those high figures. Public tolerance – ‘cultural carrying capacity’ — of deer is much lower in than what land can actually support.” ... 

Examples of the wide range of deer density recommendations

Will County OKs more deer culling February 15, 2014 Illinois, Kankakee Daily Journal 
...  the district's goal of maintaining deer population at 20 to 30 per square mile...

Green Bay, Aerial survey targets Green Bay’s urban deer population February 14, 2014 Wisconsin, Fox11
... The Department of Natural Resources recommends a target limit of 25 deer per mile

Deer population rises in Cayuga Heights June 13, 2013 New York, Shreveport Times
... Paul Curtis, a wildlife specialist in Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources, ... recommends that suburban communities, like Cayuga Heights, have deer population densities below 15-20 deer per square mile.

Block Island deer herd will be thinned out by sharpshooters December 23, 2013 Rhode Island, theday.com
... The goal is 10 to 15 deer per square mile ... according to Brian Tefft, a deer biologist with the state Department of Environmental Management...

...  DNR biologist Don McGowan estimates that the present deer population in this area is approximately 30-35 per square mile, considered healthy by current standards...

Fairfax City pursues deer sterilization program December 16, 2013 Virginia, Fairfax Times
 ... Dr. Anthony DiNicola ... estimates that the city’s deer population is between 50 to 75 deer per square mile, which is lower than areas considered to have a deer crisis... “I can’t guarantee that deer are going to become a problem here,” DiNicola told the City Council last week ...

Sunset Hills, Deer population growing problem in south Sunset Hills April 23, 2013 Missouri, STLtoday.com
... ... With 20 deer per square mile, it is ecologically viable for them to survive. They can eat without disturbing the land or eating vegetation favored by other animals. When the number is 40, the deer are on the limits of living off the land, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation...

Fairfax City, Council Deadlocked Over Deer Hunting, Instead Will Ban it Completely July 11, 2013 Virginia, Patch.com
...  wildlife biologist Vicky Monroe ... aid, an optimum number would be 15 to 20 deer per square mile – but that the local City and County areas currently have an estimated 40 to 100 deer per square mile.  She also said studies are showing that deer in northern Virginia are living twice as long as the average deer across the country...

... Vicky Monroe ... said an optimal number of deer to have in a suburban area such as Fairfax would be 15 to 20 deer per square mile...

Cape Girardeau, Deer count results presented to Cape City Council March 5, 2013 Missouri, Southeast Missourian
... A survey of Cape Girardeau's whitetail deer population presented to the city council Monday night found an average density of 37 deer per square mile ...Matt Bowyer, a conservation department wildlife biologist ...  told the council the department keeps three numbers in mind when looking at survey results: a 20-deer-per-square-mile "optimal" density, a 40-deer-per-square-mile social carrying capacity and a 60-deer-per-square-mile biological carrying capacity ... Thirty-seven deer per square mile is an indication, according to Bowyer, that the local deer population is healthy ...

West Des Moines looks to thin out herds of deer June 29, 2013 Iowa, DesMoinesRegister.com
... Polk County Deer Task Force recommendation of 20 to 30 deer per square mile... in Des Moines, where more than 1,000 deer have been harvested in the last seven years, according to Mike Gaul, Des Moines’ controlled bow hunt coordinator...

Eden Prairie, Deer Management Program November 10, 2012 Eden Prairie News
The City of Eden Prairie's 2012 Deer Management Program ... The goal is to manage the white tail deer population to 25 deer per square mile, according to the Minnesota DNR guidelines.

Amberley, A (Lone) Wolf in the Village: Deer Management June 29, 2012 Ohio, lonewolfinthevillage.blogspot.com
... According to [Cincinnati] Park representatives Dave Gamstetter and Jim Godby, in their opinion, the optimal number of deer to ensure a sustainable ecosystem is 15-20 deer per square mile. When asked specifically about French Park, they estimated that the park could sustain six deer before exhibiting signs of deer defoliation or a "browse line." ... Statistically, deer mortality rates when deer are moved are higher than 50% [much higher than actual data, see research page

Shawnee, New deer cull set for Shawnee Mission Park November 30, 2012 Kansas, Kansas City Star
The Johnson County Park & Recreation District said law enforcement sharpshooters will be killing deer on several dates to reduce the population ... The park board has said it wants to keep the deer population at 50 per square mile...

Morgantown Council discusses urban deer population June 29, 2011, West Virginia, The Daily Athenaeum
Dave Samuel, a West Virginia University professor of wildlife and biology, presented the results of an infrared count of the number of deer in the area and ... ...showed a deer population far in excess of the desired ecological standard of five deer per square mile. [This is the lowest standard publicly reported anywhere in the U.S.,] 

West Lakeland, Bowhunting scheduled to thin deer population December 22, 2012 Minnesota, Minneapolis Star Tribune
The township has sought Urban Deer Management's help controlling the deer population every year since 2006, said Dan Kyllo, town board chair ... "What we found out through the DNR is that they claim that a healthy population of deer is seven to 10 deer per square mile," Kyllo said. "In counts by hunters, we were approaching 30 deer per square mile."

It has set off a heated debate, a federal lawsuit ...  But for the third consecutive year, Valley Forge National Historical Park is proceeding with a deer-culling program ... Before the culling began, the park counted 291 deer per square mile. A "sustainable" population would be closer to 35 per square mile, said Deirdre Gibson, the park's chief of resources.  About 1,000 deer were killed during the first two years of the program, reducing the herd to 71 per square mile ...

Radnor Board of Commissioners OKs deer cull June 20, 2012 Pennsylvania, Main Line
... The recommendation is a result of a recent study involving the police department and the USDA’s Wildlife Services ... Last year 144 deer incidents were reported to police, the majority of which involved automobiles.The deer-density study indicated that the current deer density in the township was 101 per square mile while the desirable level of deer density should be 30 per square mile.

Wildlife Too Close for Comfort in Fairfield County? January 29, 2012 Connecticut, The Daily Greenwich
... A mountain lion, later traced to South Dakota, is killed by a motorist on the Merritt Parkway within days of repeated sightings in Greenwich ... Experts estimate there are between 50 to 100 deer per square mile compared to the desired 12 to 25 [per square mile]

Redding: Deer Management: Study results are revealed December 8, 2011 Connecticut TheReddingPilot.com
... 75% of the female herd still needs to be culled to reach the town’s goal of 10 to 12 per square mile.... According to an aerial survey, there are 68.8 deer per square mile, or about 1,900 deer currently inhabiting the town.... The homeowners’ survey, to which 66% responded, indicated about 40% thought the deer population was stable. However, 38% said they think the population is still increasing... more than two-thirds ... said they would like to see fewer deer. ...51% of homeowners supported the concept of sharpshooting, while 49% were opposed.

Wilton: Deer control: Hunting alone is not getting it done January 8, 2012 Connecticut, Wilton Bulletin
Wilton's density of deer is presently about 69 deer per square mile, based on the Department of Environmental Protection's flyover count. "It should be about 10 to 20 psm (per square mile), eight psm to eradicate Lyme disease [not supported by Center for Disease Control]," said Patricia Sesto, Wilton's director of Environmental Affairs. [deer cull not effective against Lyme] ... "If we harvest 300 a year it could take us maybe seven years." But of course that does not include baby deer, which tend to come in twos. [Wilton's deer cull program has been in place since 2,000, hunting not providing effective control] 

Islesboro, Hunters to thin Islesboro deer herd November 9, 2012 Maine, Bangor Daily News
...voters approved killing about 400 of the estimated 500 deer that live on the island. The vote was 100-28, according to BDN reports at the time... In one study the density was established at 50 deer per square mile; in the other, the estimate was 48 deer per square mile.  According to published BDN accounts, a healthy deer population density in Maine is about 10 deer per square mile...

Weston opens public lands to first deer hunt in memory October 28, 2012 Massachusetts, Boston Globe
... The new policy has provoked fierce debate in Weston. Supporters say hunting is necessary to protect private property, restore ecological balance to the woods, and stem the spread of deer ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease to humans [deer density not correlated with Lyme disease]. Opponents decry the practice as cruel and dangerous... State wildlife officials estimate that Weston has 25 deer per square mile, while the community is more suited to just six to eight deer per square mile

Weston, Deer Hunt Starts Wednesday In Devil's Den Preserve In Weston November 13, 2012 Connecticut, The Daily Voice
...  The goal is to cut the population to eight to 12 deer per square mile, which maintains healthy forests, said Steve Patton, the conservancy’s director of Devil’s Den.

The shooters, part of a professional wildlife management company, will kill roughly 100 deer in 2012 with the goal of reducing the population to 25 deer per square mile, according to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources guidelines

Kirkwood, Counting Deer Can Be A Challenge December 14, 2012 Missouri, Webster Kirkwood Times
... initiatives are underway to gain a more accurate idea of how many of the animals are wandering suburban streets.... Erin Shank, an urban wildlife biologist at Powder Valley, said ... "We'd like to see it below 40 per square mile.... We know that's a big attraction for folks who come here," Shank said. "They like to see the deer and there are lots of opportunities for that here at Powder Valley ..."

Sunset Hills hires firm for deer survey December 19, 2012 Missouri, St. Louis Post-Dispatch · 
White Buffalo Inc., a firm that specializes in population control of white-tailed deer in urban areas, will conduct a study to determine if Sunset Hills has a deer problem. The aldermanic board approved Dec. 11 a $2,500 contract for the study. ... For suburban areas, 20 to 30 deer per square mile is a desired number, according to the conservation department.

Helena once again gets FWP approval to remove urban deer December 20, 2012 Montana, Independent Record
...  police officers will try to lure about 200 urban deer in Helena into traps and kill them with bolt guns ...  more comments opposing the measure were received this year than in past years by FWP, prompting Commissioner Ron Moody to note that they should be open to some other options to drop the deer population to the goal of about 25 deer per square mile... An estimated 377 deer — mostly mule deer — live in Helena, which equates to about 34 per square mile ...

Hopewell Township December, 2012 New Jersey
The Hopewell Township Deer Management Committee estimated the deer
population in the township to be 54 deer per square mile.  Published literature suggests that 10 deer per square mile is associated with low rates of Lyme disease [the Center For Disease Control finds no peer reviewed research for a general deer density shown to reduce Lyme] and deer collisions, and healthy forests ...

Gettysburg, Park staff thin the deer herd at Gettysburg November 3, 2013 Pennsylvania, witf.org
... the Park Service plans to shoot between 200 and 250 deer, which would help them reach their goal of 25 deer per square mile of forest...




















The latest U.S. Forest Service research indicates that at less than 10 deer per square mile, too much underbrush may develop for a good forest health. Forests regenerate with deer densities in the 15 to 28  per square mile range, and some regeneration occurs at even much higher densities. 

As deer population grows in Delaware November 1, 2013 The News Journal
...  State officials have a target of 40 deer per square mile of habitat statewide...

Sunset Hills, Deer Dilemma Continues In Sunset Hills July 3, 2014 Missouri, South County Times 
...  Erin Shank, MDC urban wildlife biologist ..After five surveys conducted after the hunting season, the deer density stands at 69 deer per square mile... According to Shank, 40 per square mile is an ecologically realistic goal...

Brookfield, Survey shows stable deer population in Brookfield January 17, 2014 Wisconsin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 
... Since 2001, the city has contracted with sharp shooters to cull the local deer population... The population has hovered near 350 for several years... a goal to kill about one-third of the population ... to maintain fewer than 30 to 50 deer per square mile of "habitat area." ... 

...The estimated deer density in the park will be 49 deer per square mile (260 deer) after fawns are born this spring. Although still above the plan’s initial target level of 31-35 deer per square mile, this represents a significant reduction from the estimated 241 deer per square mile (1,277 deer) present in 2009...  National Park Service staff has documented native species seedlings that had not been just a few years ago, including maple, ash, oak, black gum, hickory, cherry, and sassafras...  

...   DNR biologist Don McGowan estimates that the present deer population in this area is approximately 30-35 per square mile, considered healthy by current standards...

Examples of the wide range of deer density recommendations

Teatown, Deer Culling Protested During Teatown's Eaglefest February 8, 2014 New York, yorktown.dailyvoice.com ·
...  the deer culling, which Teatown says is necessary because of the deteriorating condition of its forest...The recommended density is 10 or less per square mile, according to a frequently asked questions page on the Teatown website.

Shelter Island, Ed Brown calls for public meeting on culling deer herd October 23, 2013 New York, shelterislandreporter.timesreview.com 
... A controllable herd is somewhere in the range of eight to 10 deer per square mile...

Deer continue to beset Lower Merion Twp.July 24, 2013 Pennsylvania, Philly.com
... For suburban areas like Lower Merion, the recommended density is less than 10 deer per square mile....

Monmouth County, Deer Report: 407 Hunted in Monmouth County August 16, 2013 New Jersey, Patch.com
... A total of 407 deer were harvested at parks in Monmouth County this year in an effort to manage the deer population and preserve land... instituted in 2004 ... The objective of the deer management program is to maintain healthy forest by reducing the deer population to a maximum of 10 per square mile 

St. John's Abbey Arboretum appeals to bowhunters to cull deer herd October 19, 2013 Minnesota, St. Cloud Times
... The goal: Reduce the deer population to nine per acre.  The current density is 15 per acre,... This season’s controlled hunt, which runs Oct. 26 through Dec. 31 or until 55 deer are killed, is the 12th since hunting was allowed in the 1990s. It’ll be the first archery hunt. ...

DEM to help put plan in place to reduce deer herd July 7, 2013 Rhode Island, Block Island Times
... According to Ruth Perfido, Chairperson of the DTF, eliminating the herd entirely “is off the table, period.” That’s because part of the DEM’s mandate is to provide hunting opportunities for state residents... DEM Director Janet Coit said that a healthy deer herd would be somewhere in the range of 12.5 deer per square mile ...

... According to McGrath ... For a township such as Lower Merion, 10 deer per-square-mile is considered appropriate...

Massachusetts October 8, 2013 Wicked Local
According to Mass Wildlife, a healthy deer population should be six to eight deer per square mile. Medfield has a deer population of at least 24-26 deer per ...

Essex County, Sixth Deer-Culling Season Ends, Will Continue in 2014 February 13, 2013 New Jersey, Patch.com
... the county’s wildlife management consultant Daniel Bernier explained the reservations should have five deer per square mile ... Since 2008, more than 1,500 deer have been culled ...

Lake Elmo and Washington County, High deer numbers in 2 Lake Elmo parks prompts fall harvest MinnesotaStillwater Gazette
...  DNR wildlife managers say the park should have 15 deer-per-square-mile ... 

Officials allow bow hunting to control deer population October 23, 2013 New Jersey, sub.gmnews.com 
... Park officials hope to thin the deer population to 15 deer per square mile by the end of the hunting season...

'There is no deer crisis' September 25, 2013 Connecticut, Greenwich Time, Natalie Jarnstedt
... There is no deer crisis -- numbers are down and the supposed ideal number of 10-12 deer per square mile is a bait-and-switch tactic, since only a few years ago, that magical number was 15....

Redding, Town's deer wardens resign en masse May 10, 2013 Connecticut, The Redding Pilot
... the wardens believe the “goal” of reaching 10 deer per square mile in town is “inappropriately low.” They  “strongly” urge town officials and the commission to be “very careful about reducing deer populations to extremely low levels.” ... “The deer wardens would therefore like to formally announce our withdrawal/resignation from the Redding Town Property Bow Hunting program, effective immediately,” the email said... “We do not wish to play a role in the over harvest of the resource.”

 ... Regional surveys by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife indicated deer numbers in the area at about 20-30 whitetail per square mile. That’s a tad north of the 10 deer per square mile that the habitat can adequately sustain.

West Newbury, Bow hunting eyed for deer January 22, 2013 Massachusetts, The Daily News of Newburyport
Driscoll said West Newbury has a larger-than-typical deer population for its square footage, which can lead to multiple health and biological problems. West Newbury has 20 to 26 deer per square mile, but the ideal is eight to 10 deer ...

Weston selectmen approve second season of deer hunting June 20, 2013 Massachusetts, Wicked Local- Weston
... the commission determined the town had a deer problem, with an estimated population of 25 per square mile as opposed to the six to eight recommended by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Weston, Deer Management Discussion Creates 'Uncomfortable Position' for Town Leaders March 15, 2013 Massachusetts, Patch.com
... “We would love to get [the deer population] down to eight to 10 per square mile ..."

Weston opens public lands to first deer hunt in memory October 28, 2012 Massachusetts, Boston Globe
...  State wildlife officials estimate that Weston has 25 deer per square mile, while the community is more suited to just six to eight deer per square mile.

Wilton: Town unveils new deer control plan September 29, 2011 Connecticut, Wilton VillagerDirector of Environmental Affairs Pat Sesto....The town's ideal number for the deer population is 10 per square mile, with the current number hovering between 60 and 70 per square mile ...

Mentor deer-culling program expected to start this week with SWAT sharpshooters January 8, 2013 Ohio, News-Herald.com
... Parks Director Bob Martin said ... “The citywide goal is 10 to 15 deer per square mile.”

Park Police sharpshooters to hunt deer in Chevy Chase park February 12, 2013 Maryland, Gazette.Net: Maryland Community News Online
... Ryan Butler, senior natural resources specialist for the Parks Department, said ... Generally, ecologists consider 15 deer per square mile sustainable 

Town & Country authorizes sharpshooting despite resident complaints November 16, 2012 Missouri, Newsmagazinenetwork
... While the Board agreed strongly with the measures to cull the deer herd to the recommended goal of less than 30 deer per square mile – a recommended culling of 125 deer – some in the community disagreed with the methods to do so. Barbara Hughes, a former Town & Country alderman, is against the sharpshooting initiative.  “Biologists told the Board of Aldermen that when you kill deer you get into a cycle of killing (i.e. bow hunting, sharpshooting) that needs to be done annually,” ...

Radnor Board of Commissioners OKs deer cull June 26, 2012 Pennsylvania, Main Line Media
... The deer-density study indicated that the current deer density in the township was 101 per square mile while the desirable level of deer density should be 30 per square mile... Last year 144 deer incidents were reported to police, the majority of which involved automobiles... Residents have also complained about damage to their properties as well as high rates of Lyme disease. [deer cull generally not effective against Lyme]

East Hampton, Deer in Town Sights July 5, 2012 East Hampton Star
... the wildlife group said a 2006 study had estimated 3,239 deer in town, or about 51 deer per square mile, noting that the figures were “somewhat higher than wildlife managers generally prefer in the eastern United States, but not alarmingly high.” In addition, the group said, the deer were deemed at that time to be in good health. However, Marguerite Wolffsohn, the town planning director, told the town board on Tuesday that those numbers should instead be 20 to 40 deer per square mile....

Helena, City police cruising at night to tally the deer in town October 5, 2012 Wyoming,
Helena Independent Record
... The Helena Police Department will begin its annual deer count this week... “The goal is to have 25 deer per square mile,” Police Chief Troy McGee said...

Lower Merio, Deer culling in Lower Merion Township to resume in November October 5, 2012 Pennsylvania, Main Line
In the first three years of its deer-culling program, Lower Merion has thinned its herd by 288 animals, at an average cost per deer of $230.... That survey estimated there were 58 deer per square mile in the most affected western half of the township, when the number should be about 10...

Westborough, More towns consider deer hunting to curtail population October 15, 2012 Massachusetts, Milford Daily News
Westborough is one of the latest towns in the MetroWest area to consider permitting deer hunting on public lands in order to curtail populations... David Stainbrook, the deer and moose project leader at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said deer populations in wildlife Zone 9, which includes Westborough, appear to be stabilizing.  "Our goal is about 10 to 12 deer per square mile of forest in Zone 9," Stainbrook said.

Town and Country, $57K to Fund Winter Deer Management in Town and CountryOctober 23, 2012 Missouri, Patch.com
The city's plan was to reduce the population of deer from 660 to 300, or 30 per square mile  ... Captain Gary Hoelzer, who researched and helped develop the city's deer ... Last winter 288 deer were shot... Former alderman Barbara Hughes also once again spoke out against the sharpshooting. She referred to the city's deer versus car data that shows 50 collisions last year and 48 this year and said she doesn't see sharpshooting as making Town and Country safer for drivers.

Some Communities Have No Defined Goals and Keep No Statistics To Measure Progress
Deer bowhunting program on pace for record in city October 20, 2012 Ohio, The Newark Advocate
... Newark’s bowhunting program was created to help limit damage to private property from deer, trim the herd and lower the rate of deer-car crashes. Sgt. Erik McKee, of the Newark Police Department thinks those things are happening, but said he doesn’t have hard statistics to support that.... “Statistically, it’s just too difficult to keep an accurate count,” ... 

Charleston, Officials see success with urban hunting October 30, 2012 West Virginia, 
Daily Mail 
... A total of 93 animals were killed last year, City Manager David Molgaard said.  "I absolutely think this is working,"  ... Twenty-eight deer were killed in 2007, and 36 were reported the following year. That number jumped to 54 when the new regulation was passed, according to figures provided by the city.  "I don't think we'll ever completely eradicate deer from our city," ... 

Some Wildlife Officials Acknowledge that the Optimal Deer Density Is Not Readily Calculable
Bar Harbor, state officials discuss possible deer hunt on MDI October 20, 2012 Maine, Bangor Daily News, By Bill Trotter
... The ban has been in place since the 1930s, according to state officials.  Every few years, the issue of hunting comes up at meetings on MDI where people talk of deer raiding their gardens or of neighbors who have contracted Lyme disease [deer density not correlated with Lyme Disease] ... Tom Schaeffer, a DIF&W biologist based in Jonesboro, told the council that the department does not have an estimate for how many deer might be on MDI, nor is there a formula for determining what the ideal number for MDI might be.

Data Collection Can Be Problematic
Deer overpopulation in Shelton? May 16, 2014 Connecticut May 16, 2014 patch.com
... over the last two years the CT DEEP has manipulated data on deer populations claiming Shelton, CT has over 1,500 deer or 48 deer per square mile... Shelton, CT is  31.9 square miles and has approximately 450 deer or 14 deer per square mile within it`s borders... Comment from reader:  This exactly what they did in redding they claim you have a deer problem then they bring in their buddy's at white buffalo to come shoot your deer and charge 1500-2000 per deer and the taxpayers pay the cost! Of course they will do aerial surveys from a helicopter but never tape it so you can't count the REAL number of deer seen... The only way to accurately count deer is with an FLIR aerial survey like they did in Westport.