The White-tail deer

(Odocoileus virginanus)

Prior to European settlement deer populations were less than 4 deer / km2 in Northern Wisconsin (Alverson et al, 1988). Deer populations increased significantly following extensive harvesting of forests in the Lake States. The large-scale timber cutting of the land and conversion of the Lakes States forests to agriculture created favorable, open habitat for deer and the opportunity for deer populations to increases with the available food and shelter. Estimates of deer populations following severe logging indicates that approximately 160,000 deer existed in the Upper Peninsula prior to 1889, at approximately 4 deer / km2. Deer populations increased to a peak in the 1930's and 1940's when their legal protection was prioritized and young forests were regenerating across the region (Blouch, 1984) creating preferred deer browsing conditions. Leopold et al. (1947) noted that the Upper Peninsula's irruptive deer population has been steadily increasing for the past 20 years, while Wisconsin deer populations peaked in 1942. An early 1940's autumn population estimated the deer in the northern Wisconsin region to be 700,000 or about 14 deer/ km2 (McCaffery, 1986). Currently, the Upper Peninsula is home to approximately 380,000 deer (9 deer / km2, MDNR, 1993). These estimates are lower than the estimate of 480,000 for 1989, and 180,000 in 1977. Deer populations are presently higher than presettlement populations, and have been consistently higher except for the brief peak in the early 1920s (Van Deelen et al, 1996).

Typical white-tailed deer management consisted of gaps and grassy openings <20 ha in size, which were made regionally available through this large scale conversion of forested land to agriculture. Consequently, deer populations flourished in the Mid-Western United States in the (Alverson, 1988). Since the 1960s, deer populations on the Ottawa National Forest have steadily declined from 30 deer / mi2, to a low of 14 deer / mi2, in the 1970's, and 6 deer / mi2 in the early 1980s. In 1983, the Ottawa National Forest deer populations have rebounded to approximately 20 deer / mi2 ( USFS, 1994). At the landscape scale, the human activities of logging and land conversion have created the opportunity for increased deer populations regionally, and consequent decreased timber species regeneration.

See the range and density of these "large rats" !
page edited 14 dec 1999 lts