Visual display of the Aldo Leopold papers : 9/25/10-1 : Correspondence

Experience With Excess Deer

The undersigned met at the Ninth North American 71ildlife Conference April 26,
1944, to exchange our experiences with deer herds that have grown too large for the
natural food supply. 7e found ourselves in agreement on the following points:
1. If excess deer are not shot off they will starve off. When a herd starves
down the carrying capacity of the range goes with it.
2. A herd can be reduced effectively only by killing females. Where large
refuges exist, they sometimes must be shrunk before a reduction can be made.
3. The sooner excess deer are removed, the more deer the range will carry
later. Reduction should be completed before starvation begins.
4. The following experiences shed light on the degree of reduction needed:
(a) A 90 percent starvation on the Kaibab brought partial range recovery.
(b) Pennsylvania has reduced 50 percent by doe seasons, but cannot yet
plant white pines. Some red pines are getting by. .
(c) On the Dixie Forest in Utah a 50 percent reduction by shooting seems
to have brought some relief, but this herd had not reached the starva-
tion point. Other Utah herds are in process of combined shooting and
starvation, but no conclusions can yet be made.
(d) Michigan's deer are starving down because the legislature would not
authorize killing females. The extent of the reduction is unknown.
Range conditions are still getting worse,
(e) Assuming a deer population of 500,000 Wisconsin has reduced its herd
temporarily 26 percent by shooting (66,000 males and 66,000 females
taken in the 1943 hunting season) without relief to the range.
(f) In average years annual losses of deor in overpopulated areas of
Texas vary from 15% to 26%, and in dry years some herds have suffered
losses up to 50%.
(g) In Minnesota open seasons without age or sex restrictions, in 4 of
the past 6 years have failed to check the increase of deer. There
have been starvation losses in some places in recent years and range
deterioration is becoming evident.
5. Delay in removing excess deer deteriorates their physical vigor and pre-
disposes to parasites and disease.
6. Predators may be useful in breaking up congestions, and in helping to
control deer in inaccessible areas, which hunters cannot or do not reach,
Excess deer are a problem in distribution as well as numbers.
I. H. Bartlett, Deer Investigations, Mich. Dept. of Conservation, Lansing, Mich.
Lester M. Berner, 7is. Dept. of Conservation, Box 125, Ladysmith, mis.
Paul D. Dalke, Leader, Missouri Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Columbia, Mo.
. S. Feeney, Game Biologist, Wis. Dept. of Conservation, Box 132, Ladysmith, Tis.
Leonard E. Foote, Vermont Fish and Game Service, Montpelier, Vt.
Phil Goodrum, Director 7;ildlife Restoration, Game, Fish and Oyster Comm., Austin,Tex.
R. R. Hill, Assistant Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service, Milwaukee, Wis.
George H. Kelker, Utah State Agr. College, Logan, Utah
Aldo Leopold, Dept. of 7ildlife Management, 424 Univ. Farm Place, Madison 5, Wis.
A. Starker Leopold, Missouri Conservation Commission, Jefferson City, Mo.
G. E. Mitchell, North Pacific Region, U.S. Forest Service, Portlandt, Oregon
Orange Olsen, Intermountain Region, U.S. Forest Service, Ogden, Utah
D. I. Rasmussen, Leader, Utah Cooperative 7ildlife Research Unit, Logan, Utah
Thomas A. Schrader, Dept. of Conservation, St. Paul, Minn.
Jerome H. Stoudt, Refuge Manager, Necedah National 77ildlife Refuge, Necedah, Wis.
Talter P. Taylor, Leader, Tex, Coop. 7ildlife Research Unit, College Station, Tex.
Charles T. Vorhies, Economic Zoologist, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.

November 25-27, 1943

Gus's Last Hunt
We came up to get us a deer. Took the boat up to Anchor's island,
hoping to find it free of hunters. I stood at the lower crossing
while Estella and Gus went up the north shore to make a drive. They
had no sooner left than I found the fresh track of a deer, crossing
the channel from the mainland, and dragging a leg. There was blood.
It was clear that somebody's cripple was on the island.
In a few minutes a disgusted looking hunter appeared. He had
followed his cripple to the island but couldn't find her.
While I was talking to the hunter, I heard Gus' "big-game" yelp.
I knew he had found the cripple, and hurried to join him.
When I got there, I found Estella in tears and Gus in the middle of
the river. The deer had taken the water and crossed to the north shore.
Gus had followed. On a bar in the middle he had come upon the doe and
gotten kicked. I had heard the doe give a loud blat, like a half-grown
calf in desperation.
Gus is a weak swimmer because of his crooked leg. I doubted whether
he would make the far shore, toward which the current carried him. We
hurried back toward the boat, but it was too far to enable me to reach
him in time. We were overjoyed when he at last reached the north bank.
It took me half an hour to get to the boat and cross the river.
When I reached him he had his hind legs in the water, his forelegs
clinging to a sod. He was baying weakly, but was unable to lift his
head. I carried him up the bank, but he couldn't stand. His hind
quarters were paralyzed, either by exhaustion, or the kick from the
deer, or both.
Gus recognized me when I carried him up the bank, but he was soon
seized by convulsions. I covered him with my coat, but could do nothing
else for him. I had to tell him goodbye, and put him out of his misery.

A. L.