This podcast was produced by Polk County Conservation and funded by Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education program or REAP-CEP.
Hi! My name is Heidi Anderson, Naturalist for Polk County Conservation. As a naturalist, people have shared numerous stories with me about their encounters with white tailed deer in Iowa. Some of them good, and some of them bad.
For example, I’m often asked "How do deer manage in the winter? Should we put food out occasionally?"
No. Even with snow on the ground, deer are still able to find food. In the winter, deer browse on woody vegetation like the twigs and buds of trees or shrubs. Do not be tempted to put out food for deer. Attracting them to your yard concentrates them in a smaller space. Large concentrations of deer cause damage to natural habitats by reducing the number of plant and tree species that grow there. Deer that are fed by humans are also drawn into heavy traffic areas and are often killed by vehicle collisions.
Another common question I hear is "Deer are destroying my garden. How do I discourage them?"
Deer are adaptable, curious, and opportunistic feeders. If a deer is hungry enough, it will eat anything. Exclusion is the best option if feasible. If you can’t put 6 foot tall fencing around your garden or yard, there are numerous repellents and barriers on the market that may work. Success with repellents may reduce, but not eliminate damage caused by deer.
Every spring, I receive questions like, "I found a fawn in my yard. I think it’s been abandoned. What should I do?"
Leave it alone. Don’t pick it up or try to feed it. The fawn’s best chance of survival is in the wild. Mother deer leave their young alone on purpose. She will only visit her fawn a few times a day to nurse and clean it, staying for only a few minutes at a time. She will go and feed nearby and is never too far away from her fawn.
Some people I talk to are concerned about bow hunters hunting deer in city limits. Their questions range from concerns about their safety to wondering how many deer are there?
The Des Moines Metropolitan Urban Bow Hunting program was developed in response to growth in the urban deer populations. Large numbers of deer have resulted in damage to natural vegetation, increased deer/vehicle collisions, and damage to private landscaping. Urban deer populations can double every 3 to 4 years if left unchecked. Bow hunters must pass a proficiency test and be 200 feet from residences and 75 feet away from roads and recreational trails.
Determining the number of deer is not an exact science. One method is to keep track of the number of deer killed on our highways. The second method uses spotlights to survey numbers in the spring. The final technique is an aerial survey of selected areas across the state following hunting seasons.
Whatever your experiences with deer are, the future of deer in Iowa depends on cooperation of land owners, hunters, wildlife managers and legislative support.
This podcast was funded by REAP-CEP which is a program the State of Iowa invests in to enhance and protect the state's natural and cultural resources. REAP provides money for projects through state agency budgets or in the form of grants. For more information about REAP, visit iowareap.com.