Name ______________________________________ Period ________ Date __________
‘Oh, Deer!’ – Population Growth Simulation
Axis deer were introduced to Hawaii as a means to develop sport hunting in the islands for
tourists. After a couple of years, the deer population had climbed to such levels that they
became a threat to the natural Hawaiian habitat with its unique biodiversity. The Maui
Conservancy field crew decided to focus their efforts on controlling the deer population to less
harmful numbers. Before choosing regulation strategies, they decided to follow the changes in
the deer population over time without interference.
To their surprise, they found that the deer numbers were constantly changing, within a narrow
range of numbers. Was the population unstable? Was there an unknown influence on the deer
population the scientists need to consider? In our class simulation we will try to help the Maui
Conservancy understand the behavior of the axis deer in the Hawaiian island.
1. Our class will be divided into two groups – DEER (10 or less) and RESOURCES (20 or
more). Each group stands on either side of the classroom or of the outdoor area.
2. First Year:
a. The RESOURCE GROUP decides which resources they offer – shelter (hands –
‘roof’ on head), food (hands on stomach) or water (hands form a ‘cup’), or
combinations of the three, according to the group’s decision.
b. The DEER also choose which resources they are looking for.
c. The deer approach the resources with the respective hand signs. If a deer finds
its resource, it ‘reproduces’ (picks the ‘resource’ and returns). If the deer does not
find its resource, it ‘dies’ (joins the resource group). At the end of each round, the
deer return with their ‘offspring’ and are counted and recorded in the table below.
3. Years 2-15:
a. Repeat the cycle 14 more times (each round represents 1 year).
i. The RESOURCES may change their choice in between each round.
ii. The DEER may also change their choice in between each round (if they
1. What is the simulation designed to demonstrate?
2. Why is it realistic that the availability of resources can change from year to year?
3. Hypothesis: What do you expect to happen to the deer population after several rounds?
Year # # of Deer # of Shelter # of Food # of Water
1. Construct a line graph on graph paper showing the number of deer as a function of
time. (In other words, plot time on the x-axis and number of deer on the y-axis.)
1. Describe the pattern seen in the deer population graph over the entire time frame.
2. Did the results confirm your hypothesis? If not, what could be the reasons for the
3. In this activity, what were the limiting factors on the deer in any specific year (choose
4. What would you say is the average carrying capacity of the island?
5. What other limiting factors (not used in the simulation) may affect the deer population?
6. What would happen to the deer population if there were no limiting factors in this
environment? How would such a condition affect the local environment?
7. How would you improve this simulation?