Use of "Earn-a-Buck" Hunting to Manage Local Deer Overabundance

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Description: Management of overabundant Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) populations in suburban and rural landscapes remains controversial, and deer-reduction techniques in these areas are often impeded by public attitudes and safety concerns. Cornell University implemented an "earn-a-buck" (EAB) hunting program to mitigate deer-related impacts on lands surrounding its campus (722 ha) in Ithaca, NY in 2008, and at the University-owned Arnot Teaching and Research Forest (ATRF; 1649 ha) in Cayuta, NY in 1999. The focus of EAB was to increase the harvest of female deer and lower herd size. For the benefit of other entities challenged with White-tailed Deer overabundance, we describe implementation of an EAB hunting program on campus lands. We recorded 257 deer harvested (69-99 each hunting season) on lands near campus. At ATRF, there was an increased harvest of adult does and fawns upon EAB implementation. Moreover, the number of antlered bucks harvested dropped during the first 2 years of EAB when compared to pre-EAB levels. We demonstrated an increased harvest of female deer and improved adult sex ratio during EAB. We monitored program progress via data collected at deer check stations. Deer harvests at ATRF have declined slightly over time, proving beneficial for forest regeneration and biodiversity; however, the question remains how to maintain hunter interest in EAB programs during years of decreased deer numbers. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]
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