White-tailed deer research projects
Over the last sixty years, the department has developed a deer herd monitoring and management system that seeks to use the best science and data possible. The deer monitoring system is more comprehensive, complex, and intensive than for any other wildlife species managed in Wisconsin. A recent audit (2006) by an international panel of experts found the department's deer population modeling system to be a sound program, as good as or better than that of any state. Yet challenges remain, including hunter concerns with deer population model accuracy and the impacts of predators. None-the-less, we continue to strive to be responsive to Wisconsin's citizens and enhance the accuracy and precision of deer population estimates. To that end, the department is investing a record amount of its resources for Wisconsin whitetails.
In 2010, DNR began its greatest investment ever in Wisconsin deer research. Federal Wildlife Restoration Act funds are being used to conduct a number of research projects to improve our deer population knowledge. We will be looking for help from additional partners to increase our capacity for gathering valuable information through these research studies. Most of these studies are multiple-year projects.
Wildlife and forestry researchers are currently involved with the following projects relating to white-tailed deer:
Estimating survival and cause-specific mortality of adult male white-tailed deer in Wisconsin
This study was designed to provide rigorous estimates of the buck recovery rate or its components (buck survival and cause-specific mortality), and hence increased accuracy of SAK population estimates. Additionally, this study will enhance our understanding of the effects and magnitude of hunter bias on estimates of cause- and age-specific mortality rates on male deer, and a greater understanding of spatial and temporal effects on variation in mortality of male deer across Wisconsin.
This study is also known as the Buck mortality study
Project timeline: 2010 - 2015
Impact of predation, winter weather, and habitat on white-tailed deer fawn recruitment in Wisconsin
This study was designed to examine several possible causes for variable deer population goals in northern and eastern Wisconsin by focusing on deer fawn survival and recruitment as impacted by species-specific predation, winter weather, and habitat conditions. Additionally, estimates of black bear, coyote, and wolf predation on white-tailed deer fawns in the northern forest and eastern farmland deer management regions will be obtained. Understanding impacts of various predators on fawn survival is important for formulating appropriate harvest recommendations for deer populations throughout northern Wisconsin.
Project timeline: 2011 - 2013
This study is also known as the Predation and fawn recruitment study.
Evaluation of Wisconsin's deer population monitoring and management system
The objective of this research is to quantify the accuracy of sex-age-kill (SAK) population estimates and harvest predictions including evaluating impacts by input variables and explore other population models to determine their effectiveness to estimate deer populations. This study is expected to increase the understanding of factors affecting the harvest of white-tailed deer and rate of population increase which will lead to a better understanding of the accuracy and precision of the current deer population monitoring and harvest management system. This information is needed to increase the public's confidence in the department's deer management program and willingness to harvest the number of antlerless deer required to maintain populations at goal levels.
Project timeline: 1995 - ongoing
Lead DNR scientists: Dan Storm
An evaluation of the usefulness of deer-vehicle collision data as indices to deer population abundance
Monitoring deer populations is crucial for harvest management. Recent research has suggested limitations to current monitoring techniques (i.e. audit of the SAK model), and they remain controversial with the public. Additional, independent sources of information on population trends of deer are desirable, and deer-vehicle collision data has been suggested as potentially useful for that purpose. This research project was intended to identify sources of deer-vehicle collision data, understand data collection procedures, and evaluate potential usefulness of such data for monitoring deer populations.
Project timeline: 2011 - 2013
Relationships of deer ecology, disease ecology, and hunter behavior to manage chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Wisconsin
The objectives of this study is to provide the science needed to manage CWD in Wisconsin, use an adaptive management approach to evaluate the effectiveness of an aggressive CWD eradication program, and provide new scientific information upon which to base future decisions. This study will document deer movements and behavior in the CWD affected area of southwestern Wisconsin. It will determine the geographic distribution and prevalence of CWD, its transmission rates and its spread, relative to age, sex and genotype. Perceptions of human risk factors, attitudes of hunters, landowners, and the public and economic effects from CWD will be assessed. Size of the deer population in the CWD affected area will be determined and monitored.
Project timeline: 2002 - ongoing
Do you have a photo of a study deer? We'd love to see it. Submit your photo here!
Deer in and around traps
Traps and drop net set up
Handling and processing adult deer
Fawn searching, capture, and handling
Trail camera photos
Wisconsin DNR needs Deer Research Volunteers
In 2010, the DNR began its greatest investment ever in Wisconsin deer research. Two study areas have been established to investigate these important questions:
- What is the survival rate of bucks and what portion of bucks are harvested by hunters?
This study is specifically designed to make herd estimates more accurate. It will look at various causes of death in bucks - hunting, predation, vehicle collisions, harsh weather - and determine what percentage of deaths within the study areas can be attributed to each cause.
- What impacts do predators have on deer populations?
This study will examine the roles of predation, habitat and weather in the deaths of fawns in each study area. Wisconsin's research will build on and share results with a similar study in Michigan.
These are big questions to tackle, and we need hunter volunteers to succeed. Your help with field work and fund raising is critical to the success of these multi-year research projects.
DNR is encouraging all interested hunters and citizens to get involved in trapping, handling, and tracking deer. We also need hunters to participate in searching for fawns and placing radio collars on them.
Learn more about trapping techniques and seasons for:
How you can get involved:
- Sign up to volunteer.
- Make a tax deductible donation to the research project.
- Help by passing the word to your friends and fellow hunters.
Your Donations can be used to Purchase
- Adult radio collars - $200 each
- Fawn radio collars- $200 each
- Vaginal implant transmitters - $250 each
- Hand-held antennas - $120 each
- Receivers - $1,990 each
- Deer traps - $650 each
- Other equipment
If you like, you can choose which items you'd like your donation to go towards. Another option is to donate or loan equipment - contact us for details. We will be acknowledging partners and sponsors.
Our research partners
- Investing in Wisconsin's Whitetails
- Wisconsin Deer Research Studies 2010-2011 Annual Report
- Wisconsin Deer Research Studies 2011-2012 Annual Report
Buck Mortality Study Literature
Anderson, R. G., and C. K. Nielsen. 2002. Modified Stephenson trap for capturing deer. Wildlife Society Bulletin 30:606-608.
Caughley, G. 1974. Interpretation of age ratios. Journal of Wildlife Management 38:557-562.
Ditchkoff, S. S., E. R. Welch, Jr., R. L. Lochmiller, R. E. Masters, and W. R. Starry. 2001. Age-specific causes of mortality among male white-tailed deer support mate-competition theory. Journal of Wildlife Management 65:552-559.
Fuller, T. K. 1990. Dynamics of a declining white-tailed deer population in north-central Minnesota. Wildlife Monograph 110:1-37.
Heisey, D. M., and T. K. Fuller. 1985. Evaluation of survival and cause-specific mortality rates using telemetry data. Journal of Wildlife Management 49:666-674.
Hiller, T. L., J. Pusateri Burroughs, H. Campa, III, M. K. Cosgrove, B. A. Rudolph, and A. J. Tyre. 2010. Sex-age selectivity and correlates of capture for winte-trapped white-tailed deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 74:564-572.
Jacques, C. N., J. A. Jenks, C. S. DePerno, J. D. Sievers, T. W. Grovenburg, T. J. Brinkman, C. C. Swanson, and B. A. Stillings. 2009. Evaluating Ungulate Mortality Associated with Helicopter Net Gun Captures in the Northern Great Plains. Journal of Wildlife Management 73:1282-1291.
Jacques, C. N., T. R. Van Deelen, W. H. Hall, Jr., K. J. Martin, and K. C. VerCauteren. 2010. Evaluating how hunters see and react to telemetry collars on white-tailed deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 74: In Press.
Nelson, M. E., and D. L. Mech. 1986. Mortality of white-tailed deer in northeastern Minnesota. Journal of Wildlife Management 50:691-698.
Severinghaus, C. W. 1949. Tooth development and wear as a criteria of age in white-tailed deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 13:195-216.
Van Deelen, T. R., H. Campa III, J. B. Haufler, and P. D. Thompson. 1997. Mortality patterns of white-tailed deer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Journal of Wildlife Management 61:903-910.
Van Deelen, T. R., B. J. Dhuey, C. N. Jacques, R. E. Rolley, and D. K. Warnke. 2010. Effects of special antlerless-only seasons on Wisconsin's deer harvests. Journal of Wildlife Management 74: In Press.
Webb, S. L., D. G. Hewitt, and M. W. Hellickson. 2007. Scale of management for mature male white-tailed deer as influenced by home range and movements. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:1507-1512.
Whitlaw, H. A., W. B. Ballard, D. L. Sabine, S. J. Young, R. A. Jenkins, and G. J. Forbes. 1998. Survival and cause-specific mortality rates of adult white-tailed deer in New Brunswick. Journal of Wildlife Management 62:1335-1341.
Predation and Fawn Recruitment Study Literature
Andelt, W. F., J. G. Kie, F. F. Knowlton, and K. Cardwell. 1987. Variation in coyote diets associated with season and successional changes in vegetation. Journal of Wildlife Management 51:273-277.
Carroll, B. K., and D. L. Brown. 1977. Factors affecting neonatal fawn survival in southern-central Texas. Journal of Wildlife Management 41:63-69.
Carstensen Powell, M., and G. D. DelGiudice. 2005. Birth, morphological, and blood characteristics of free-ranging white-tailed deer neonates. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 41:171-183.
Carstensen Powell, M., G. D. DelGiudice, and B. A. Sampson. 2003. Using doe behavior and vaginal-implant transmitters to capture neonate white-tailed deer in north-central Minnesota. Wildlife Society Bulletin 31:634-641.
Cook, R. S., M. White, D. O. Trainer, and W. C. Glazener. 1971. Mortality of young white-tailed deer fawns in south Texas. Journal of Wildlife Management 35:47-56.
Diefenbach, D. R., C. O. Kochanny, J. K. Vreeland, and B. D. Wallingford. 2003. Evaluation of an expandable, breakaway radiocollar for white-tailed deer fawns. Wildlife Society Bulletin 31:756-761.
Hamlin, K. L., S. J. Riley, D. Pyrah, A. R. Dood, and R. J. Mackie. 1984. Relationships among mule deer fawn mortality, coyotes, and alternate prey species during summer. Journal of Wildlife Management 48:489-499.
Harrison, D. J., and J. A. Harrison. 1984. Foods of adult Maine coyotes and their known-aged pups. Journal of Wildlife Management 48:922-926.
Hiller, T. L., H. Campa, III, S. R. Winterstein, and B. A. Rudolph. 2007. Survival and space use of fawn white-tailed deer in southern Michigan. American Midland Nauralist 159:403-412.
Holzman, S., M. J. Conroy, and J. Pickering. 1992. Home range, movements, and habitat use of coyotes in southcentral Georgia. Journal of Wildlife Management 56:139-146.
Huegel, C. N., R. B. Dahlgren, and H. L. Gladfelter. 1985. Mortality of white-tailed deer in south-central Iowa. Journal of Wildlife Management 49:377-380.
Marston, M. A. 1942. Winter relations of bobcats to white-tailed deer in Maine. Journal of Wildlife Management 6:328-337.
Nelson, T. A., and A. Woolf. 1985. Birth site and growth of deer fawns in southern Illinois. Journal of Wildlife Management 49:374-377.
Nelson, T. A., and A. Woolf. 1987. Mortality of white-tailed deer fawns in southern Illinois. Journal of Wildlife Management 51:326-329.
Ozoga, J. J., and L. J. Verme. 1982. Predation by black bears on newborn white-tailed deer. Journal of Mammalogy 63:695-696.
Ozoga, J. J., and L. J. Verme. 1985. Determining fetus age in live white-tailed does by X-ray. Journal of Wildlife Management 49:372-374.
Piccolo, B. P., T. R. Van Deelen, K. Hollis-Etter, D. R. Etter, R. E. Warner, and C. Anchor. 2010. Behavior and survival of white-tailed deer neonates in two suburban forest preserves. Canadian Journal of Zoology 88:487-495.
Pusateri Burroughs, J., H. Campa, III, S. R. Winterstein, B. A. Rudolph, and W. E. Moritz. 2006. Cause-specific mortality and survival of white-tailed deer fawns in southwestern Lower Michigan. Journal of Wildlife Management 70:743-751.
Ricca, M. A., R. G. Anthony, D. H. Jackson, and S. A. Wolfe. 2002. Survival of Columbian white-tailed deer in western Oregon. Journal of Wildlife Management 66:1255-1266.
Rohm, J. H., C. K. Nielsen, and A. Woolf. 2007. Survival of white-tailed deer fawns in southern Illinois. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:851-860.
Saalfeld, S. T., and S. S. Ditchkoff. 2007. Survival of neonatal white-tailed deer in an exurban population. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:940-944.
Sams, M. G., R. L. Lochmiller, C. W. Qualls, Jr., D. M. Leslie, Jr., and M. E. Payton. 1996. Physiological correlates of neonatal mortality in an overpopulated herd of white-tailed deer. Journal of Mammalogy 77:179-190.
Vreeland, J. K., D. R. Diefenbach, and B. D. Wallingford. 2004. Survival rates, mortality causes, and habitats of Pennsylvania white-tailed deer fawns. Wildlife Society Bulletin 32:542-553.
Windberg, L. A., and C. D. Mitchell. 1990. Winter diets of coyotes in relation to prey abundance in southern Texas. Journal of Mammalogy 71:439-447.
In the news
- Green Bay Press Gazette. 9 June 2012. "DNR project studies fawn predation." Contributing Writer: Pat Durkin
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 11 September 2011. "Ear-tagged deer are legal game." Contributing Writer: Paul Smith.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 11 September 2011. "Two study areas in the state produce
- varying deer data." Contributing Writer: Paul Smith.
- The Bee. 7 July 2011. "Researchers learning impact of predators on deer herd."
- Contributing Writer: Eric Knudson.
- Wisconsin Outdoor News 18(12):1,6. 2011. "Fawn capture and tagging study continues." Contributing Writer: Dan Hansen.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 28 May 2011. "Study tracks fawn survival and mortality."
- Contributing Writer: Paul Smith.
- Central Wisconsin Sports. 29 May 2011. "Outdoors Feature: Fawns Are Easier to
- Tackle: Deer Research Project Phase II." Contributing Writer: Scott Stankowski.
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 10 May 2011. "Locating new fawns is next
- step in deer research project; volunteers needed."
- Central Wisconsin Sports. 12 April 2011. "Outdoors Feature: Tackling the state's
- whitetail research project. Contributing Writer: Scott Stankowski.
- Barron News-Shield. 4 March 2011. "Researchers wrestling with whitetail population study. Contributing Writer: Luke Klink.
- Northland Adventures. 25 February 2011. "At last off the ground." Contributing Writer: Dave Carlson.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 26 February 2011. "Deer projects will examine state's herd." Contributing Writer: Paul Smith.
- Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. 26 January 2011. "Deer Research Effort Volunteers
- Wisconsin Outdoor News. 24 January 2011. "WI DNR Researchers Studying Causes of Deer Predation." Contributing Writer: Dan Hansen.
- Great Northern Outdoors. 21 January 2011. "Keep eye on sky for flying deer."
- Contributing Writer: Dave Carlson.
- The Outdoor Wire. 28 September 2010. "Union Sportsmen's Alliance Boots on Ground
- Conservation Program Provides Critical Manpower."
- Midwest Hunting Online Hunting Show. July 2010. "Impacts of harvest and predation on
- survival and recruitment of white-tailed deer."
- Appleton Post Crescent. 25 July 2010. "Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources plans
- $2 million in deer studies."
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 14 March 2010. "Wisconsin to Study Predator
- Impacts on Deer."
- The Monroe Times. 1 July 2010. "Volunteers needed for deer research effort." Contributing Writer: Lee Fahrney.
- Shawano Leader. 25 July 2010. "Meeting looks at deer research in works for Shawano, Waupaca counties."
- Wisconsin Outdoor News. 22 July 2010. "Wanted: Deer hunters to aid in research." Contributing Writer: Lee Fahrney
- Wisconsin State Journal . 13 April 2010. "The Deer Hunters - What toll do wolves, bears and other predators take on deer herds?" Contributing Writer: Ron Seely
For more information about white-tailed deer research, please contact:
Ungulate research ecologist