What Is A Deer Herd?
People will often mistakenly think a “deer herd” is a group of deer running together. This is incorrect; that is a “pack of deer.” People often get this wrong, but a deer herd is the total population of deer in a given area.
You could reference the deer herd within a county; for example, “the deer herd of Erie County is 10,000.”
You can also reference a deer density, which is measured by # of deer/unit of land size. For example, the number of deer per square mile but it is usually expressed as animals/hectare or animals/km2.
How Many Deer In A Herd?
There is no way to tell the exact number of deer in a herd, deer are constantly moving around the area, and it is simply impossible to track. Naturalists and/or biologists, when trying to estimate a deer herd, will use several data points.
These data points can be # of deer/vehicle accidents, # of deer harvested during the previous hunting season, and how heavy the understory of forests are browsed (eaten clean by deer). So locals will trap and tag deer to track things like the range of habitat and these tags are also sometimes used to estimate herd population.
These numbers will be put into a statistical model which gives a predictive density of the deer herd, or said another way a population estimate.
According to DeerFriendly.com, New York State is estimated to have around 930,000 deer within the state in 2018. While in Colorado, the state estimated the deer population to be around 427,570 in 2020.
So as you can see the deer herd population can vary widely from state to state.
How Many Deer In A Pack?
As stated earlier, people will often mistake a deer pack and call it a herd of deer. Likely, thinking deer are similar to a herd of cattle. But this is simply similar terminology used in different fashions. It isn’t uncommon to see deer travel in small groups/pack of 2-6 individual deer. You will often see a mix of middle-age does with some younger deer in tow.
Deer Management Programs – Deer Overabundance Causes and Solutions
The abundance of deer in many parts of the United States is causing increasing problems, particularly in suburban and urban areas. The overpopulation of deer has led to increased human injuries caused by collisions between vehicles and deer, the undergrowth in many forests being decimated and even an increase in the spread of disease.
Many states within the United States are taking a more active role in managing the deer herd to keep a delicate balance properly. Some states, such as Michigan, have successfully managed their herds, while others haven’t had as much luck.
What Causes A Deer Herd To Increase or Decrease or The Density Of The Deer Herd To Condense?
Let’s look at the different factors that cause a deer herd to grow or shrink. As we think about proper wildlife management regarding the deer herd understanding what causes increases or decreases in the deer population will help you do the little things that can help increase or decrease the amount of deer in your area based on your goals.
Several factors are contributing to the problem, including:
1) Habitat loss due to development
This increases the density of the deer in a given area. In the short term, this can increase the overall deer population as it is easier for bucks to impregnate many, leading to a large influx of fawns.
2) Increased food sources such as crops grown on farms that attract deer.
As wooded areas are taken over and switched to land to plant food crops it increases the food supply available to deer, this over time will decrease the amount of deer that die off due to lack of volume of food and, therefore, increase the overall population.
Several things contribute to decreasing the size of a deer herd. Some of these include:
1) Food Sources
A decrease in food sources or a poor growing season for common food deer eat can lead to deer being leaner going into winter, were combined with the colder conditions, can increase the chances that less deer make in through winter.
2) Disease outbreaks
With high populations of deer disease can spread quickly. Just like influenza tends to spread more rapidly in densely populated areas, deer disease spreads more rapidly when deer are more densely packed in a given location.
3) Human encroachment onto wildlife habitats
When deer lose the habitats they live in due to humans clearing more and more land to put up commercial or residential buildings, it can over time have negative impacts to the deer herd as they have less food resources and the density of the deer is greater so more deer are competing for the same amount of food in a given area.
4) Hunting pressure
Increased hunting pressure in the short term causes deer herds to become smaller because hunters will fill their game tags harvesting deer. Over time, proper hunting management can help the deer herd as the remaining deer generally will be healthier.
5) Increase of natural predators
Just as the deer population ebbs and flows so does the population of natural predators to deer. For example, if the population of coyotes increases it will put more pressure on the deer herd and reduce the herd’s overall numbers.
In conclusion, there are multiple ways to affect the number of deer in a given area but by taking some simple steps you can begin to see how important managing the habitat around you really is.
If you would like to learn more about deer population control and management, read some of our other articles on the topic.