The economics of white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, management is comprised of multiple facets. Deer herd health and population regulation are central to the economics of most deer management plans. The local white-tailed deer populations directly impact human welfare economics. The management of deer populations heavily affects agriculture, forestry, landscaping, and natural vegetation. Recreational services are another economic source realized from the management of white-tailed deer. Much of the economics of white-tailed deer management can also be applied to other game species.
Herd Health and Regulation
White-tailed deer population size will affect the herd’s health. Disease in a herd spreads readily when the population size is large; this is known as density-dependent spread of infection (Habib, Merrill, Pybus, & Coltman, 2011). Frequency-dependency is the spread of infection controlled by the number of individuals infected. Foot and Mouth Disease is spread through a large population of white tailed deer and can be transmitted from white-tailed deer to other hosts that come in contact with the infected population (Highfield, Ward, Laffan, Norby, & Wagner, 2010). A deer population of more than thirty individuals per square kilometer is considered to have a 100% transmission rate of Foot and Mouth Disease.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal infectious prion disease that afflicts cervid, hoofed and antlered mammal, populations in North America (Habib, Merrill, Pybus, & Coltman, 2011). Chronic Wasting Disease is transmitted through contact with infected animals; however, it is believed that carcasses from infected individuals, along with saliva, blood, feces, and urine left in the environment, can transmit the disease. Chronic Wasting Disease is considered to be spread through an intermediate of density-dependant and frequency-dependent transmission. This suggests that density reduction would decrease potential for transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease. Several jurisdictions use reduction of populations to manage the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. In Alberta, Canada management targets are one deer per square kilometer.
White-tailed deer populations in northern climates have to compete for forage during winter months (Taillon & Côté, 2007). The decreased available food, or browse in winter weather and high expenditure of energy to regulate heat and move through deep snow affects survival rates, especially in higher densities. By the 1930s, high populations of white-tailed deer on Anticosti Island, Québec had nearly extirpated the deciduous browse, their preferred food source. Their alternate is balsam fir, which is now also depleting leaving white spruce as a poor, but only viable source of sustenance for the deer. To protect claim to valuable and scarce resources, such as winter browse, deer use aggression and dominance behaviors. The cost of fighting is outweighed by the potential gains of the...