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Hunter and Public Opinions of a Columbian Black-Tailed Deer Population in a Pacific Northwest Island Landscape

By Robert P. Wingard, Paul R. Krausman

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Management decisions are influenced by public acceptance for wildlife; thus, knowledge of public concerns and management preferences can be an advantage to natural resource decision makers. Wildlife managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are concerned that the Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus; deer) population on Whidbey Island, Washington, USA, exceeds social carrying capacity (i.e., a publicly acceptable population). In summer 2014, we designed a self-administered mail questionnaire to assess opinions of residents and a phone survey to assess the opinions of Whidbey Island deer hunters about Columbian black-tailed deer. We hypothesized that residents would support increased hunting when social carrying capacity was exceeded. The resident survey focused on the frequency and type of interactions with deer, the level of acceptability of the population, and their willingness to support increased hunting. Residents perceived the deer population as acceptable for the island, and there was some support for increased hunting. The hunter survey focused on the respondents’ experience hunting deer on the island, including their opinion of the current deer population trend and the desired future deer population trend. Hunters perceived the deer population trend to be increasing somewhat, while their desired population trend was stability. Hunters cited the lack of public and private land open to hunting on Whidbey Island as the biggest barrier and the most common complaint about hunting deer on the island. The results of these surveys suggest the deer population on Whidbey Island (= 6.2 deer/km2) had not exceeded social carrying capacity. There is support (62% of respondents) for increasing hunting opportunities on the island, but island residents were concerned about public safety. Understanding public views is instrumental for enhanced management. Managers and the public must work together to manage wildlife resources more effectively.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Human-Wildlife Interactions
Volume 13
Issue 3
Pages 474-488
ISBN/ISSN 2155-3874
DOI 10.26077/9sc5-h236
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Deer
  3. human-wildlife interactions
  4. Hunters
  5. open access
  6. Wild animals
  1. open access