Oh deer, Delaware details plans to manage deer population

    Delaware unveils a 10-year plan to control the state’s deer population.

    Delaware’s deer population has come along way from being nearly completely eradicated in mid-1800’s.  Now numbering between 25,000 and 30,000, the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife is putting the finishing touches on a nearly 90-page plan for managing the number of deer in the state.

    Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist Joe Rogerson authored the report.  He says it’s common for the general public to focus on the negative economic impact of the state’s deer population, but he says, the animals also have a positive impact on the state’s economy.

    The negative impact is understood by anyone who’s had a collision with a deer.  Rogerson says insurance company estimates show that there are around 4,000 insurance claims in Delaware every year involving a deer colliding with a vehicle.  He says the cost of those claims on average range from $1,500 to $2,000.  That translates to more than six million dollars every year caused by deer.  Other negative impacts include damage to crops in more agricultural parts of the state.

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    Rogerson says the positive economic impact of the state’s deer population is often overlooked.  “Hunters largely fund our agency through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses,” he says.  The report says deer hunters spent $39 million on hunting-related expenditures in 2006, and that doesn’t include other purchases by hunters not related to hunting like fuel and food.  Wildlife watchers also contribute to the state’s economy, as much as $131 million in 2006.  Rogerson says the deer population contributes to some of that economic activity, but it’s not clear exactly how much.

    The draft management plan is designed to maximize the positive impacts and minimize the negative impact.  Rogerson says controlling the growing population, especially in urban and suburban areas is challenging.  He says the more developed areas of the state often have a higher density deer population.  He says that’s because “hunting is the primary means for controlling deer numbers, and when we get into these highly developed areas it essentially eliminates the amount of hunting can occur.”  He says in those areas, the deer population is able to expand to levels that can’t be controlled right now.  “What were more interested in is not necesarily how many deer we have, but just the density of them around the landscape.”

    The drat plan outlines how the state will manage the deer population over the next ten years.  Public hearings will be held in all three counties over the next few weeks.  You can find dates and locations on the Division of Fish and Wildlife website. Comments on the plan are also being accepted by email.  The plan is expected to be finalized later this year.

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