Modeling how to achieve localized areas of reduced white-tailed deer density

Amanda N. Van Buskirk, Christopher S. Rosenberry, Bret D. Wallingford, Emily Just Domoto, Marc E. McDill, Patrick J. Drohan, Duane R. Diefenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Localized management of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) involves the removal of matriarchal family units with the intent to create areas of reduced deer density. However, application of this approach has not always been successful, possibly because of female dispersal and high deer densities. We developed a spatially explicit, agent-based model to investigate the intensity of deer removal required to locally reduce deer density depending on the surrounding deer density, dispersal behavior, and size and shape of the area of localized reduction. Application of this model is illustrated using the example of abundant deer populations in Pennsylvania, USA. Most scenarios required at least 5 years before substantial deer density reductions occurred. Our model indicated that a localized reduction was successful for scenarios in which the surrounding deer density was lowest (30 deer/mi²), localized antlerless harvest rates were ≥ 30%, and the removal area was ≥ 5 mi². When the size of the removal area was < 5 mi2, end population density was highly variable and, in some scenarios, exceeded the initial density. The shape of the area of localized reduction had less influence on the ability to reduce deer density than the size. There were no differences in mean deer density in the same size circle or square removal areas. Similarly, increasing the ratio of sides (length: width) in rectangular removal areas had little influence on the ability to locally reduce deer densities. Situations in which deer density was higher (40 or 50 deer/mi2) required antlerless removal rates to exceed 30% and took more than 5 years to considerably reduce density in the localized area regardless of its size. These results indicate that the size of the removal area, surrounding deer density, and antlerless harvest rate are the most influential factors in locally reducing deer density. Therefore, localized management likely can be an effective strategy for lower density herds, especially in larger removal areas. For high density herds, the success of this strategy would depend most on the ability of resource managers to achieve consistently high antlerless harvest rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109393
JournalEcological Modelling
StatePublished - Feb 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecological Modeling


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