White-tailed deer

Abstract

Title:  From Ridiculed to Recognized: 22 Years of Deer Research and Management on Hilton Head, SC
Author(s): David Henderson, Community Services Associates; Robert Warren, University of Georgia; Charles Ruth, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Year: 2017
Abstract: Sea Pines (SP) is a 5,300-acre residential/resort community on Hilton Head, SC. Traditional white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) hunting is not feasible due to municipal ordinance. As development in SP neared completion, the owners association (Community Services Associates [CSA]) began receiving complaints regarding deer-human conflicts. In 1995 the University of Georgia (UGA) developed a research project to provide CSA and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) with biologically sound data needed to manage deer on SP. The project received a great deal of local, state, national and international media attention. Local newspapers questioned the project and editorials included professional ridicule. In 1998 the original project was completed and UGA proposed a follow-up project that included lethal removal. Five local, state and national animal activist groups organized a coalition and in 1998 filed a lawsuit, ultimately heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court (SCSC) in 2000. In 2001 the SCSC ruled in favor of CSA and SCDNR; however, CSA decided to forgo the follow-up project and opted instead to implement a culling program made possible by recently approved SCDNR Urban Deer Management Guidelines. Since 2001 CSA has utilized sharpshooting to discretely remove 965 deer without incident. Deer-vehicle collisions and complaints of landscape depredation have decreased substantially. Local media, once a source of ridicule, now recognize the merit of these programs. Successfully managing deer in an emotionally, legally, and politically charged environment can be challenging for wildlife professionals. A description of lessons learned while operating amid such controversy will be presented.

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