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Deer abundance and densities in Wisconsin deer management units

The Wisconsin DNR annually estimates the size of the population of deer in each deer management unit. Deer population estimates may be expressed in terms of abundance or density. Abundance estimates are the total number of deer estimated for an entire unit. Density can be calculated by dividing the abundance estimate by the area (square miles) within the unit. Density estimates are useful for comparing population estimates among deer management units because they standardize abundance estimates by taking into account the difference in size of deer management units.

Population estimates

Deer population estimates are made for two time periods, a fall or prehunt estimate and an overwinter or posthunt estimate. Posthunt population estimates provide the starting point for annual determinations of antlerless harvest quotas and permit levels.

Fall deer population estimates [PDF] are based to a large degree on the number of antlered bucks harvested in each deer management unit.

Buck harvest density [PDF] in 2017 varied among deer management units from less than 1 to more than 6 bucks harvested per square mile of land area.

Fall deer densities [PDF] in 2017 varied from 5 to 67 deer per square mile of land area. Deer management units with the highest fall densities were mostly in the east-central, west-central and southwestern parts of the state. Units with the lowest fall deer densities were mostly in north-central, northeastern and southeastern Wisconsin.

Overwinter deer population estimates [PDF] are derived from the fall population estimates and the total registered harvest.

Overwinter deer densities [PDF] in 2017 varied from 4 to over 50 deer per square mile of land area.

Variation in deer abundance across the state largely reflects variation in the quantity and quality of habitat together with the influences of climate. The abundance of woodlands interspersed with agriculture throughout the much of central and southwestern Wisconsin results in high quality deer habitat. This together with relatively mild winters in these regions in most years facilitates higher deer densities than in other part of the state.

It is important to keep in mind that density estimates for deer management units are based largely on the number of antlered bucks harvested in the unit. The resulting density estimates are averages for the entire unit and may not accurately reflect local deer density. There can be considerable local variation in density within deer management units due to differences in deer habitat quality and local hunting pressure.

Last revised: Monday May 14 2018