Georgia is fortunate to have a healthy white-tailed deer population that provides diverse recreational opportunities and generates significant economic vitality. For example, deer hunting in Georgia has an annual economic impact of greater than $600 million, supports more than 8,000 jobs and generates about $50 million in state and local taxes, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division. Properly managing this resource is critical.
Management of Georgia’s deer population is achieved primarily through regulated hunting. In fact, regulated hunting has successfully reduced the estimated statewide deer population from a high of 1.4 million deer in the 1990s to the current statewide estimate of 1 million deer. Despite this successful reduction, areas of overabundance exist in urban and suburban settings. Rapid human population growth and development has limited the efficacy of hunting in these areas, resulting in a variety of management challenges.
“The Urban Deer Plan resulted from a collaborative partnership that sought to identify barriers for addressing these challenges and developing specific strategies to facilitate the management of deer in urban and suburban areas,” says John Bowers, Assistant Chief of the Division’s Game Management Section.
DNR pooled the expertise of stakeholders in an 18-member Urban Deer Advisory Committee. This joint venture was tasked with developing an Urban Deer Plan for the Department to use as a guiding document. The Committee did just that.
The Plan recommends that regulated hunting be used as the primary method to manage deer in urban/suburban areas. This is not surprising as recent surveys indicate that Georgians overwhelmingly support the use of regulated hunting to manage deer populations. Additionally, regulated hunting is cost efficient and effective whereas other alternatives are expensive and ineffective. Nevertheless, the Plan acknowledged the need for integrated approaches and included recommendations for alternatives to hunting (e.g., habitat modification, exclusion, et al.). Options such as predator reintroduction, contraception, and others are not recommended, as they are neither feasible nor suitable for Georgia.
Several barriers, which may interfere with effective management of deer in urban areas, also are identified in the Plan. These include hunter access to undeveloped, wooded areas and greenspace; local ordinances; public perceptions; and landowner liability concerns. The Plan provides several recommendations to facilitate management of deer in urban and suburban areas that will require cooperation among state and local governments, citizens, and private organization.
“The Wildlife Resources Division looks forward to developing collaborative partnerships that result in successful management of deer in urban settings to meet the needs of our citizens while ensuring a sustainable resource,” says Bowers.
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