Living with Deer in Illinois

Other Control Methods

Other deer population control methods, such as sterilization or relocation, are not viable options. If the deer population in a given area is already high, merely sterilizing the deer that are already present will do nothing to reduce deer numbers in the short-term and is typically expensive. Use of surgical sterilization and immunocontraceptive (IC) vaccines continues on an experimental basis in some areas of the country. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may register the new IC vaccine, GonaCon, for use on free-ranging white-tailed deer. However, the highest effectiveness achieved (in stopping does from reproducing) during two field trials was 88 percent during the first year post-treatment on one site, and the effectiveness fell to 46 and 47 percent during year two on both sites. The EPA registration may specify that GonaCon must be hand-injected. Although it has been demonstrated that ICs can be used to prevent reproduction by individual animals for multiple years (in captive settings), not enough animals can be captured and treated in wild deer populations to have any significant population reduction effect.

Relocation of white-tailed deer in Illinois is no longer a viable option due to potential for spreading unwanted wildlife disease (such as CWD) and/or parasites. Additionally, the stresses of capture and transport lead to low survival of the deer.

New documents to the site


From the newly published Cornell Study

So we know what the options mean, I have copied the Deer Manager’s Toolbox from the Cornell Study here.

A Deer Manager’s Toolbox – Lethal Control


Research conducted on the capture and translocation of deer suggests that animals are stressed during the process, and experience high mortality after release, which is why we choose to place this method in with other lethal controls. Translocation is cost prohibitive, may increase the spread of disease, and few places would accept these animals. [Prohibited in Michigan.]

Predator Reintroduction

Deer predators such as wolves and mountain lions were extirpated over much of their range, and recent work has shown that coyote predation does not control overabundant deer populations, with the exception of very special circumstances. At this time, wildlife management agencies are unlikely to advocate for release of
mountain lions or wolves in our region due to biological constraints in suburban landscapes, and stakeholder concerns over resource use and safety. It is also questionable whether large predators would have the ability to control abundant deer populations given the ratio of predator to prey. In Wisconsin’s remaining wolf range, for example, there are likely more than 1,000 deer for every wolf, a clear indication that wolves by themselves, while certainly feeding on deer, will not be able to control or reduce deer numbers sufficiently.

Regulated Hunting

This is often the first method proposed as a solution for deer problems, and is advocated by both state wildlife management agencies and hunters. Successful deer reduction via hunting depends on a community’s established objectives. For example, hunting, where permitted, may be useful in reducing some level of DVCs, or when implemented before deer populations become too large. This method, along with sterilization, comprised the core of Cornell’s initial deer management approach. Our experiences with regulated hunting at Cornell, along with many other communities in the U.S., suggest difficulty in reducing deer abundance to a level that achieves ecological goals.

Capture and Euthanize

Methods used to capture and euthanize deer include drop nets, Clover traps, or darting to capture deer, followed by penetrating captive bolt, exsanguination, firearms, or chemical euthanization. In most instances, these methods will require contracting with professionals from USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Services, law enforcement, or private contractors. Although we have successfully used Clover traps and penetrating captive bolt, a technique approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Veterinary Medical Association and by Cornell’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, to euthanize deer in dense suburban areas, staff time and expense were concerns for its continued use.

Bait and Shoot

This is the only method we are aware of that has demonstrated quick reductions in suburban deer populations. While bait and shoot has clearly reduced deer numbers and DVCs in numerous suburban communities, we are not able to assess whether deer reductions have also resulted in reductions in ecological impacts. We are pursuing this work on Cornell lands, but we cannot provide much evidence at this time. Bait and shoot methods may be divided into either volunteer contributions, such as in our DDP efforts at Cornell, or contractual services by professionals. In both instances, participants bait deer into locations where discharge of bows, crossbows, or firearms is safe; and deer are shot at close range. This method is most effective on naïve deer herds unfamiliar with hunting. Although hunted deer tend to be much more cautious, bait-and-shoot methods can still lead to population reductions. Using contractual services is expensive, but time spent afield is greatly reduced, and costs are generally much less than fertility control. Bait-and-shoot techniques are clearly the most likely to reduce deer populations to the lowest levels possible, given all of today’s options.

Regulated Commercial Hunting

Under current laws and regulations, this method is not legal in most states. This proposed method may include contracting deer management out to approved individuals or companies, or expanding the ability of recreational hunters to sell meat or other deer parts. Contractors or individuals would be able to sell venison at market prices to cover their time and costs. Numerous and notable wildlife professionals in the U.S. support and continue to debate this method. North American wildlife management agencies have not moved forward with the idea of bringing back commercial hunting, and the sale of wild-caught venison is prohibited in most states. Moreover, hunters who consider it a threat to their recreational pursuits vehemently oppose commercial hunting. Ironically, venison sold in U.S. stores is either farm-raised or imported from New Zealand, where white-tailed deer were introduced and have become an invasive pest species, and where deer are
commercially hunted. [Prohibited in Michigan.]

A Deer Manager’s Toolbox – Nonlethal Control

Change Ornamental Planting Regimes

The recommendations to use non-palatable plantings often contain non-native, sometimes invasive species, and thus not ecologically-acceptable options. Furthermore, widely planting just a few reliably deer-resistant plants will greatly reduce local biodiversity with unacceptable consequences for native insects and birds that require native species as food and shelter.

Repellents (Chemical and Physical)

Repellents in various forms (chemical or nonchemical, such as scare devices in gardens or along roadways) may have short-term effects, if at all, but they are not a permanent solution, despite widespread claims.


Although some deer can clear an 8-foot-high fence, depending on terrain, this minimum height can be effective for keeping deer out of high-value areas permanently, but it excludes other wildlife, has high initial costs, and pushes deer into adjacent unfenced areas. Fences will remain an essential option to guard roads, high-value ornamental plantings, or threatened populations of native species. However, they have no effect on overall deer abundance in a community.

Fertility Control

At present, sterilization can only be performed on deer in New York State as part of approved scientific studies and requires a DEC License to Collect and Possess (LCP) research animals. In other states, you should contact your state wildlife agency to determine applicable laws and regulations. Such regulations change frequently, and you need to keep up to date. Until further data are gathered and analyzed, this technique continues to be experimental, and is not an approved method routinely available to managers. See study for a more in-depth treatment of fertility control.

Attempting to manage a suburban deer herd using fertility control alone will not likely be successful in areas with high deer densities. Deer are long-lived (>12 years), and without mortality, sterilized female deer will continue ecological and social impacts unabated, except for the gradual attrition of deer killed by vehicles. Modeling has shown that removing a female deer has two to three times the impact on population growth than sterilizing a female deer. Managing a deer herd via vehicle collisions is both inhumane and costly for community residents.


Oh, Deer! Ann Arbor’s Herd Problem

Oh, Deer! Ann Arbor’s Herd Problem

In a blog post from Local in Ann Arbor, there is as good synopsis of some of the conflicting views of deer.

“In the end, the question of what to do about Ann Arbor’s excess deer is as much about values as about science.”

Go to to read more.

DOEnation Ministries

DOEnation is a local based charity that seeks to create partnerships with agencies and landowners who are willing to grant hunting access on their property with the purpose of supplying a healthy source of protein to those in need. Every deer we harvest during each charity hunt is taken to a local participating processor and dispersed to one of the nine Michigan food banks to feed hungry families and individuals locally. This humanitarian mission goes hand and hand with sound wildlife management. As all of you have noted in your posts, the overpopulation of white-tailed deer in many regions of Michigan is leading to the depletion of native vegetation, consequently reducing plant diversity overall in many areas. Furthermore, the disturbance caused by excessive deer browse allows invasive species to establish, creating many problems within the local ecosystem. We recognize and understand the need for hunting as a management technique, as two of our staff members, including myself, hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management. If you are interested in this mutually beneficial arrangement, we would be very interested in discussing our process with you in more detail.If anyone is experiencing problems caused by high deer density on their property, we would be willing to meet with you to find a solution.

DOEnation has managed several properties in townships and cities adjacent to Ann Arbor with success.Please check out our website for more information:

Ann Arbor- deer management

I think the statement about “only make room for more deer” is an inadvertent endorsement of the “vacuum” concept that has been wrongly put forth. Population dynamics is a complex thing. It is certainly possible with a repeated culling program to reduce the immediate pressure on the local area. That is the reason many public parks are using such programs. Even without culling, the population will still gain new individuals from “outside”, if we continue to supply food and protection from predation. I hope that our city officials will suspend judgment, especially about the technical issues, until all the information has been gathered and presented.

I have been gathering information about MDNR population management – it is relatively subtle and involves a number of assumptions and also political/educational issues. (The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ main “customers” are the trophy hunters who simply want to have lots of deer, preferably 8-point bucks.)

There is much to take in as we look at our ecological future and the issues we are currently trying to address.

#A2manydeer #cull