A recent study conducted by Responsive Management for the Pennsylvania Game Commission shows deer are valued by all Pennsylvanians, including hunters and non-hunters.
The study found very positive attitudes toward deer and deer-related recreation. A large majority of Pennsylvania residents (77 percent) enjoy having deer around, although a portion of those may worry about the problems deer cause; only 6 percent regard deer as a nuisance. More than half of Pennsylvanians (56 percent) had spent time viewing or watching deer around their home in the previous 12 months, while 22 percent had taken a trip of at least 1 mile to view deer during that same time period. Finally, a large majority of Pennsylvania residents (85 percent) support legal, regulated hunting of deer.
The PGC is using the results of this study to help fulfill its mission to manage wildlife populations for all residents and visitors.
“This study was important because it didn’t just look at hunters but at the residents of the Commonwealth as a whole, and it let us know what they think,” said Coren Jagnow, Chief Human Dimensions Specialist, PGC Research and Education Division. The study measured public opinions on deer management efforts and goals, methods for managing deer, the size and health of the deer herd, concerns about deer and deer nuisance problems, and participation in viewing, feeding, and hunting deer, as well as the best way to provide information on deer.
Responsive Management obtained a total of 9,212 completed interviews by telephone with Pennsylvania residents 18 years old and older, with at least 400 completed interviews in each PGC Wildlife Management Unit (WMU). The results are representative of Pennsylvania residents statewide, with a sampling error of +/- 1.02 percentage points, and representative for each of the 22 WMUs. Because the WMU boundaries cross county lines and zip code boundary lines, Geographic Information System (GIS) technology was utilized to properly categorize each sample telephone number into its proper WMU for both landlines and cell phones.
Opinions on Deer Management Efforts and Goals
A large majority of residents agree with each of the three deer management goals that were asked about in the survey: 91 percent agree with managing for healthy and sustainable deer populations, 89 percent agree with managing the deer for a healthy and sustainable forest habitat, and 84 percent agree with managing for safe, acceptable levels of deer-human conflicts. The ecological goals are both slightly higher than the human-centered goal.
Participation in Deer-Related Activities and Feeding Deer
s mentioned previously, 56 percent of Pennsylvania residents have spent time viewing or watching deer around home and 22 percent have taken a trip to view deer. However, only 8 percent have fed deer or put out attractants.
Opinions on Deer In General and the Size of the Deer Herd
In general, Pennsylvania residents’ feelings about deer are positive: 77 percent of Pennsylvania residents statewide enjoy having deer around (49 percent gave this response without caveats and another 28 percent say they like having deer around even though they worry about the problems that the deer may cause). Furthermore, slightly more than half of residents (54 percent) say the deer population in their area is just right; otherwise, opinions are split on whether the population is too high or too low.
Deer-related issues are not necessarily a top priority among residents: when asked to compare the importance of deer-related issues to other issues in their lives, the average rating was a 4.09 on a 10-point scale, with 0 representing “not at all important” and 10 being “extremely important.”
Respondents were also asked to rate their concern regarding seven specific issues associated with deer. For each issue, respondents rated their level of concern using a 10-point scale, with 10 being the most concerned. The most concern was for tick-borne diseases (mean rating of 7.4) and deer-vehicle accidents (7.0), followed by two more whose means are just under those top two: the health of the deer population and the quality of deer habitat. At the bottom are concern about deer impacts on habitat and other wildlife (3.9) and the two impacts to residents’ landscaping: deer damage to plants and landscaping (2.5) and deer droppings in the yard (1.7).
Opinions on Methods for Managing Deer
Just under two-thirds of Pennsylvania residents (63 percent) support lethal methods to manage deer populations in Pennsylvania (38 percent strongly support, and 25 percent moderately support); nonetheless, 29 percent oppose (20 percent strongly oppose, and 9 percent moderately oppose).
The survey asked about four methods of controlling deer populations (three of them lethal). The most support is for legal, regulated hunting (85 percent of respondents support this method, while 12 percent oppose), distantly followed by fertility/birth control (46 percent support, 45 percent oppose), professionals or sharpshooters (39 percent support, 54 percent oppose), and trapping and killing (24 percent support, 72 percent oppose).
The full report for the Pennsylvania deer study, including discussion of the survey results statewide and by WMU, nonparametric analyses, and crosstabulated survey responses, can be accessed here.
Source: Responsive Management