Deer in the suburbs: Identifying socio-ecological drivers of management

Authors: Frances Gould*, Boston University, Anne Short Gianotti, Boston University, John Connors, Boston University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Environment
Keywords: wildlife geographies, conservation
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The rise of white-tailed deer populations is a growing problem across much of the northeastern USA, where overabundance is generating concern among residents, town managers, and ecologists. Environmental changes, loss of predators, and conservation policies have made urban and suburban areas uniquely susceptible to this trend, thus resulting in more frequent human-deer interactions. These interactions have led some communities to take steps to manage the populations, usually by increasing the prevalence of hunting. While existing research has focused on management perspectives of state agencies and individual residents, little attention has been paid to the role of municipalities in deer management. We address this gap through a study of the variation in perceptions and concerns about deer populations and municipal management activities across Massachusetts (MA). Our findings stem from a web-based survey that gathers data from municipal officials in MA towns and cities (74% response rate). We report on the ways that town officials’ perceptions of changes in deer population vary across urban, suburban, and rural environments as well as how different municipalities have modified hunting policies in the past decade. Our results illuminate the patchiness of deer management and suggest that management strategies are not fully explained by the socio-economic or biophysical characteristics of communities. In doing so, this research illustrates the importance of understanding socio-political determinants of municipal wildlife management as the role of the municipalities, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, increases.

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