White-tail deer population surveys begin in Cape Girardeau

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Last week the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) completed the first of a series of white-tail deer population surveys. This project will be ongoing over the next few months in partnership with the Cape Girardeau Police Department and the Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) Biology Department. The population survey of white-tailed deer within the city limits of Cape Girardeau is being done at the request of the Cape Girardeau city council, which began discussions of urban deer management for the city earlier this year.

“As the state agency that manages the white-tailed deer population, it makes sense that we [MDC] would work closely with city officials and SEMO’s Biology Department to get an estimate of the density of the deer within the city,” said Matt Bowyer, an MDC Wildlife Management Biologist.

Bowyer, and a team of about 15 personnel from the MDC, the city police department, and the university began the process of counting deer last week. Surveys are conducted simultaneously on 2-14 mile randomly determined routes.

While driving at slow, consistent speeds, two observers shine spotlights out of both sides of a truck. When a deer or group of deer is spotted, the distance from the truck to the deer is measured using a rangefinder and the observers record the sex and age of the deer. Once each survey is complete, the data is tabulated and the number of deer within a given square mile can be determined, Bowyer said.

“This method, and the information collected, is similar to the methods used for urban deer surveys conducted in other cities in Missouri and across the country,” Bowyer said. “So, the data we collect will be compared to other cities that have similar deer issues.”

Because the process involves using lights across fields and other areas, Bowyer said landowners should still alert the city police department if they suspect spotlighting on their property.

“We were able to conduct our first survey without any conflicts with the public,” Bowyer said. “However, any time you see something suspicious please don’t hesitate to contact the police department. It may be our team conducting the surveys, but it could also be a poacher spotlighting on your property.”

Bowyer said the police department will know when and where the group is surveying, and will notify conservation agents if illegal spotlighting activities are suspected.

Bowyer said survey activities will continue through February.

“It will take a series of surveys across a few months to generate a quality density estimate for the city’s deer population,” he said, adding that he expects results to be released to the public in March.

For more information on urban deer management, go online to mdc.mo.gov and search “urban deer management”. For more information on white-tailed deer surveys within Cape Girardeau, contact the MDC’s Southeast Regional Office at (573)290-5730.