Deer Count in Michigan

From Deer Friendly:
Michigan data:
An estimated 1.5 million deer in 2015.
Based on harvest data about 1.4 in 2014, 1.6 in 2013 and 1.7 in 2012.

The last official estimate of 1.73 from 2011.
A significant population decline in 2013 and 2014 following harsh winters, most severe in the Upper Peninsula

From South Bend Tribune
Well, just be glad you hunt southern Michigan. The biggest drop occurred in the Upper Peninsula where harvest plummeted 25 percent and that certainly skews the state numbers. The northern Lower Peninsula wasn’t much better.

The UP suffered a brutal winter for the third straight year. There was more than 3 feet of snow on the ground before the Nov. 15 firearm season, making it difficult for hunters to get out.

More importantly, deer numbers have been declining due to heavy snow that makes it difficult for the deer to move and feed. That has led to fewer fawns and a big reason why the DNR is restricting antlerless deer hunting there this fall.

Southwest Michigan persevered much better. DNR statistics show some 8,000 deer were taken in Deer Management Unit (DMU) 311, which encompasses Cass, Berrien and Van Buren counties.

Of those 8,000, 4,400 were bucks.

Admittedly, that’s 1,000 fewer deer harvested than the year before, but there are some reasons for that, too.

The entire Southwest Michigan District, that covers far more counties, saw a 20 percent increase in doe harvest during the archery season but a 16.7 percent drop during gun season.

The district’s buck harvest during archery season climbed 8.9 percent but dipped 1.9 percent during the gun season.

Deer Count, Helicopter survey

The MDNR does not have a recommended deer density in urban areas. Rather, we ask local elected officials to determine which level to manage their deer; either based on observed biological impacts to forests or natural areas, or social tolerances, which are generally met sooner in an urban setting. This allows them options in evaluating input and determining whether deer are having an unacceptable impact amongst residents in the community. This is generally done through one or a combination of several methods: monitoring deer-vehicle collisions, tracking resident complaints, surveying residents, habitat or regeneration impacts to forest/nature preserves, etc. If the elected officials deem that deer are a problem in their community, we are happy to work with them and provide recommendations to alleviate these conflicts. Typically, if conflicts are occurring at unacceptable levels across a broad expanse of the city, which limits the effectiveness of deer exclusion, lethal measures are typically recommended.

The helicopter survey should not be considered a census or indicator of herd density. The reason is that this is simply a count that occurs at one moment in time, and the estimate of how many deer were not seen is unknown. Without an effective estimate of how many deer were missed on the flyover, the count alone has little value. If this survey is repeated every year in the same manner, then Ann Arbor would be able to track changes in the deer population, and this in turn can be related back to management actions or strategies. So, the count that was conducted previously does have value, but only when it is included as a series of data points collected over time.

Chad Stewart

Deer, Elk, and Moose Management Specialist

Michigan Department of Natural Resources



The helicopter survey is considered by some to be the most accurate census for determining populations on a given unit of land. The total number of deer recorded on helicopter surveys should not be considered a complete count of all deer. Studies by Texas A&M University, Kingsville indicate that accuracy of helicopter surveys in South Texas is fairly consistent, but they can underestimate deer density by 60-70%. The information gathered from this type of survey should be used as population trend information and for the preparation of annual harvest recommendations with the understanding that the deer density figures are probably conservative.

You can get more information on deer counts on the page –

Note: the type of land cover in south Texas and they still say the count can be off by as much as 70%;

Are the deer spreading in Ann Arbor?

I stopped placing information that I am getting about deer sightings in Wards 1 and 2 on the map because I think, what we see is evidence enough of the herds of deer roaming around those two wards in Ann Arbor. I am getting more and more information and placing markers on the sites in Wards 3, 4, and 5 where I continue to get notice of thier appearance and destruction.

See the map for deer sightings in Ann Arbor at

I am now looking for sightings of fawns. In many cases you will see them trailing thier mothers. In some cases you will see them motionless in your yard or garden– waiting for the mother to come back and “claim” them.

Does become impregnated as early as 5 months old; these deer usually only have one fawn the first year. After that, and for the next 10+ years, they will have 2 or 3 fawns each year.

For the map that shows fawn sightings– see the fawn map

On both maps, I am continuing to place notifications of deer-auto accidents

To report on deer you see, email [email protected]
Let me know the date, location, numbers, etc so I can place them appropriately.
If you want to include pictures, and description of what you see, please do.

I don’t believe this count is reliable info

From mary h

hi….I am reporting a siting of a sizeable group of deer.
I live on Arlington blvd in ann arbor.
there are 6-8 that “live” in the trees on the property across the street from me, bob metcalf’s home. they blend in with the trees and are barely visible from his windows….let alone from the air!!!

I don’t believe this count is reliable info…a woman down the street on devonshire sited 18!!! in her front yard this spring.
I have lots of big beautiful (at least used to be!!) flower beds on my property and most of the blooming plants have been devastated. the deer even eat out of my flower pots on my deck!! and drain the birdfeeders too. this problem has gotten out of control…I have lived on this property for nearly 30 years. please HELP!

City Releases Aerial Deer Survey Results

City Releases Aerial Deer Survey Results

March 17, 2015 – ​The City of Ann Arbor completed two aerial surveys of the deer population on February 10 and March 6. The first survey counted 116 deer and the second survey counted 168. Both aerial deer survey results, specific counts and survey area maps are available to download via the Deer Management Project website at

The aerial surveys were conducted by a three-person crew of city staff who visually counted deer via helicopter. The first aerial flyover included all areas of the city, except the downtown near hospitals and the Arboretum, while the second survey included the entire city, including downtown and the Arboretum.

Deer survey map: Feb 10, 2015 and March 6, 2015. Findings were consistent between the two surveys, which indicate the majority of deer in Ann Arbor are largely located in Wards 1 and 2. The population concentration of deer in Wards 1 and 2 also is corroborated by A2 Open City Hall survey results, resident public comments during two public meetings and numerous resident emails and photos submitted to city staff noting an increase in deer sightings and garden and property damage.

In addition to consulting with the Michigan Department of Natural Resource staff about the flyover results, city staff will use a variety of data to assist in the development of deer management plan options for City Council consideration at the end of April, including aerial deer counts, A2 Open City Hall survey results, public meeting comments and other feedback received directly from residents.

Drone flights over Ann Arbor in search of deer

UAV flights over Ann Arbor in search of deer. Many deer tracks are seen in the snow, and they are especially dense in wooded areas, but few deer are visibile on this day (3/2/15). We are flying mostly at 100 feet.

I am only going to load one of the videos.
You don’t see many (if any) deer but lots of tracks.
Also notice the Evergreens. Bottom branches are bare, much of the lower trunks are showing.

Drone videos and photos: Steve Winchester

And Flyover video and pictures

The future is here– Droning on!

A2 deer by drone – March 2, 2015

I was up over a few areas yesterday. First spot was Onondaga, between Geddes and Hill. I had noticed many thousands of deer tracks there in the snow, then saw four deer in a backyard bedded down. Up I went and….I couldn’t see any deer. They were under dense pines and shrubs, or elsewhere. The tracks tell quite a story though, being a life long hunter with over 40 years experience I have to say I’m shocked at the sheer amount of “sign” left by deer in the snow and the damage to vegetation I observed. If I saw these signs in my hunting woods, I’d be jumping for joy knowing I would fill my freezer fast with venison!

Second area, Off Glazier Way on Wolverhampton Ln. Again, no deer to be seen anywhere. Tracks by the tens of thousands, very heavy deer trails in almost every wooded area and lawn I flew over.

Third area, just west of the above spot, across Huron Parkway in the north end of Arborcrest Memorial Park grounds. There were deer (does) standing all around, 6 or 7 scattered about. Going up and just over the treetops I could only see some of them, they simply disappear under the pines. Again, the tracks tell the story, the place is overrun and most shrubs are decimated by browsing.

Unfortunately it appears the only accurate way to do this from drone, or aircraft, is with FLIR. Which is what I thought, as that’s how the “pro’s” do it. I will try again soon in different lighting, at a different time of day. Overcast yet not too dark, is what may work the best. Looking back at past photo’s and video’s I see subdued lighting seems to provide the best contrast for picking them out of the snow. Still, FLIR is really the only way to get actual numbers.

What may be helpful to me is, if I knew exactly where they are, where they “yard up” together. If you have information from homeowners as to where those areas may be, let me know!

I’ve attached some photos taken from the video and have arrows pointing out what deer I did see. Some of these photos show the heavy prints in the snow in yards.

All for now!
[email protected]

Experience with Aerial Surveys

Ann Arbor is going to be undertaking Aerial Surveys of the deer in the Ann Arbor Area later this week. These articles may provide some additional knowledge to whomever is doing the survey.

Revealed: The Truth About Spotlight Deer Surveys, Deer and Deer Hunting, Sept 29, 2014Researchers identified 4,508 deer during 79 Bronson Forest surveys. Thermal imagers detected 85 percent (3,861 deer) of the total deer seen, and spotlights detected only 48 percent (2,174 deer) of the total. Likewise, of the deer observed, 33 percent were observed by the thermal imagers and spotlights, but 51 percent were only detected by thermal imagers, and 14 percent were only detected by spotlights.

Results and Description of the Redding Aerial Deer Survey, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Jan 24, 2014Includes an article: Detection Rates of White-tailed Deer with a Helicopter over Snow, Wildlife Society Bulletin, 2008. With important information highlighted (by the CT AgExperiment Station?) in this article

Comparison of visual-based helicopter and fixed-wing forward-looking infrared surveys for counting white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus, Wildlife Biology 17: 431-440 (2011)We surveyed five plots: four 41.4 km2 plots with free-ranging white-tailed deer
Odocoileus virginianus populations in Wisconsin and a 5.3 km2 plot with a white-tailed deer population contained by a high fence in Michigan. We surveyed plots using both fixed-wing FLIR and helicopters, both with snow cover and without snow. None of the methods counted more deer than the other when snow was present. Helicopter counts were lower in the absence of snow, but lack of snow cover did not apparently affect FLIR.

A Review of Deer Management in Michigan, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 2009

Pages of information on deer survey mechanisms

Deer Population Surveys – How Good Are They?, Ag News and Views, November 2007There are numerous types of surveys, including track counts, infrared-triggered camera surveys, aerial surveys with helicopters and, spotlight surveys. These techniques result in collecting data relative to deer numbers (density), sex ratios, reproductive rates, etc. These techniques can provide valuable insight about deer populations, but these techniques are surveys – the numbers generated using the data are estimates of population parameters, not exact numbers.

How is the deer population counted?, 12 December 2008. Layton, Julia., In moderately dense forests, FLIR is up to 90 percent accurate, and in very dense forests it can count deer with up to 50 percent accuracy

These items and more about deer count can be found on our website’s Deer Count page