White-tailed Deer in Arkansas (FBCEC)

Summary:

This activity will teach the biology behind the management of white-tailed deer in Arkansas. Participants will learn about trends in deer numbers and discuss the influential factors. They will play several rounds of Project WILD’s Oh, Deer! to explore the effects of limiting factors.

Grade Level:

7 - 12

Recommended Setting:

Any large area

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484

Duration:

45 minutes - 1 hour

Suggested Number of Participants:

20 - 40

Special Conditions:

Weather must be suitable for outdoor activity.

Objectives:

  • Identify limiting factors that affect white-tailed deer.
  • Describe how habitat change, unregulated hunting, overpopulation and disease can impact deer populations.
  • Understand Arkansas’s history of deer population changes.
  • Explain the natural fluctuation of herd population.
  • Graph and interpret data.

Key Terms*:

Chronic wasting disease

Habitat

Limiting factors

Population

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

AGFC Deer Season Summary (current issue)

Dry erase board (or poster board) and marker

Background:

Early white settlers in Arkansas were impressed by the abundance of game including white-tailed deer, turkey, elk, bear and even bison. Deer were plentiful until habitat changes and unregulated hunting took its toll, and Arkansas’s deer almost went the way of the elk and bison. Thanks to hunting regulations, wildlife refuges, restocking programs and conservation awareness, healthy deer herds are back.

Procedure:

  1. Play Oh, Deer! (Project WILD) with the participants. Keep a record of population numbers and have the participants graph the fluctuation at the end
  2. Ask the participants to describe their impression of the white-tailed deer population in the area. Does the population seem low, moderate or high? Why? What factors contribute to the population in the area?
  3. Talk about the history of fluctuating deer populations in Arkansas. Discuss diseases, habitat changes and hunting practices as well as the establishment of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, regulated hunting seasons, state and national wildlife refuges and the reintroduction of deer in Arkansas.
  4. Compare deer populations today with populations 10, 20, 100, 200 years ago.
  5. Discuss the threat of disease like chronic wasting disease and how AGFC prevents its spread in Arkansas herds.
  6. Play Oh, Deer! again. This time introduce disease into the mix. Secretly choose one or two of the participants as deer and whisper to them that they will be infected with chronic wasting disease and tag some of the other deer in the game.
  7. When the round has been completed, identify the two “disease” participants and explain that the deer that were tagged are no longer in the game due to illness. How did this affect the size of the deer herd?
  8. In the next round, select two to three participants who would have been shelter, and tell them secretly that when you say go, they should fall limply to the ground.
  9. When the round is complete, explain that the space was turned into a parking lot and no longer exists. Note the change in deer that lived through the round when habitat is changed.
  10. Continue to play, changing the limiting factors or letting it continue without manipulation, graphing the results as you go.
  11. Compare the two graphs and have the participants identify what caused the changes in population.

Modifications:

Take participants on a walk to look for deer sign (tracks, droppings, rubs, scrapes, trails). Discuss or record in journals where these signs are found, what surrounding habitat is like, how many signs are present. Reflect upon the “whys” behind the observations.

Review:

  • Describe several limiting factors that can affect the population of white-tailed deer.
  • Explain how the habitat for the white-tailed deer might be affected if hunting were unregulated.
  • What factors caused the drastic decline of white-tailed deer in Arkansas around the late 1800s and early 1900s?
  • Create a graph showing the fluctuation of deer harvest numbers in the Ozark Mountains during the last 65 years.

Resources:

  • Arkansas Deer Season Summary 2006-2007. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, 2008.
  • Cartwright, Michael E., et.al. (1996). Arkansas Deer: A Manager’s Guide for Private Lands. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
  • Wilson, Steve N. (1998). Arkansas Wildlife History. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Glossary:

Chronic wasting disease degenerative, fatal neurological disease found only among deer, elk and moose, marked by loss of body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination and eventual death; Arkansas Game & Fish Commission has not found any cases in the state and has enacted special regulations on importing live deer or carcasses from areas where the condition exists

 

Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs

 

Limiting factors – element that affects the amount of wildlife a habitat can sustain, including food, water, space, predators, disease and pollution

 

Population – all the members of one species in a particular area