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What is Deer "Overabundance"?


Coyote hunting for weak Mallard ducks and Sandhill cranes, migratory birds, in tall grass, fall, Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico
[Eastcott Momatiuk]/[The Image Bank]/Getty Images
Question: What is Deer "Overabundance"?

Wildlife managers sometimes use the word "overabundant" instead of "overpopulated" to describe a population of wild animals, but what does the term mean?


Instead of using scientific terms, wildlife management agencies will use the word “overabundant” to describe the deer population. “Overabundant” is not a scientific word and has no scientific definition. Overabundance has nothing to do with biological carrying capacity. The word is effective because it connotes overpopulation in most people’s minds, and misleads people into believing that the deer population needs to be reduced.

Deer rarely exceed their biological carrying capacity. Biological carrying capacity is the maximum number of individuals of a species that can exist in a habitat indefinitely without threatening other species in that habitat. When scientists talk about overpopulation, they are usually referring to a population exceeding its biological carrying capacity. (Compare with "cultural carrying capacity.")

When state wildlife management agencies advocate deer hunting, they rarely use the word “overpopulated” to describe the deer because it’s usually not true. Deer, like most animals, will self-regulate. If there is not enough food available to support the population, the weaker individuals will die and the does will absorb some embryos and fewer fawns will be born in the spring.

Instead, the agencies use unscientific terms like "overabundant" to scare the public and promote hunting.
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