Southeast Deer Study Group Update: Have We Been Killing Too Many Does?


The effects of many years of aggressive doe harvesting is now being questioned by deer managers throughout North America. (photo by Tracy L. Schmidt)

SANDESTIN, Fla. – To say the least, the morning’s 2012 Southeast Deer Study Group sessions about predation impacts on whitetail populations were eye-opening and mesmerizing.

The theme of this year’s two-day conference is “The Changing Face of Predation in the Southeast.” More than 400 biologists, land managers, state officials and others listened raptly in the Monday morning session. The meeting is being hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision (FWC).

By Alan Clemons

Coyotes definitely are having an impact on population numbers throughout the Southeast. Presentations by Karl Miller, Steve Demaris, Michael Chamberlain, John Kilgo and others hammered home information about the rise in coyote populations since the mid-1990s, liberalized doe harvest regulations and fawn recruitment.

As noted, too, coyotes cannot be cited as the end-all factor in population impacts. Drought, habitat changes, management strategies and changes, and mortality from hunters and natural causes also play a role in whitetail numbers.

Coyotes are opportunistic and highly adaptable, taking advantage of whatever forage sources are available be they plant or animal. As Miller pointed out, however, given the chance to score a big meal on a tender, non-aggressive fawn that could feed coyote pups or a hungry adult versus chasing rabbits or eating soft mast … would you go for the fillet on the buffet line or repeated trips for a small salad? That’s a pretty easy answer.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the increase in coyotes throughout the Southeast and elsewhere have impacted some whitetail populations. There was, and will be, heavy emphasis on encouraging more research at state and on privately managed lands to gather data for whitetail management. Miller suggested, too, that examination of doe harvest will be necessary for states as they look at regulations on season dates and bag limits.

More to come … stay tuned.