Using Panthers to Control White-Tailed Deer
Dr. John Woods 02.18.17
Believe it or not, there is actually a proposal out there circulating around the internet suggesting that wild panthers could be introduced in over-populated deer areas. Without a doubt there are areas in the American range of the white-tailed deer that are over populated. However the mere idea that panthers could be used to control these excess numbers of deer is pretty farfetched as a game management plan.
Many states have a lot of deer. Current estimates put deer populations in Texas at 5 million, Alabama and Mississippi at 2 million each. Several other states have deer populations over one million including probably Louisiana and Georgia. These over populations of deer in these areas are causing some concern. Deer are over grazing on agricultural crops, moving into residential areas eating gardens and yard shrubs and causing increases in car accidents.
State wildlife managers have for years struggled with many different plans and strategies to keep deer populations mediated with some degree of control. This is much easier to talk about than to achieve. Some of the strategies include increase bag limits, increasing doe harvests, lengthening deer hunting seasons, offering special deer seasons, presenting opportunities for special deer permits on public lands or additional considerations for hunters on private lands.
Other options have been increased opportunities for youth hunters during both archery and traditional firearms seasons. In some states youth hunters can harvest spikes for their first buck to encourage additional participation in the hunting sports. Other states may offer an open license day when hunters of all ages can take a deer without securing a hunting license. The creativity of ideas to achieve a better balance in deer populations is gratifying.
On the opposite end of deer “management” strategies are concepts of deer birth control tactics that rarely seem to have much success. Deer have been captured with the idea of relocating them to less populated areas. This idea has generally resulted in dismal results, most of the deer dying in the process.
Then comes the idea of introducing a deer predator like a prowling panther to reduce deer numbers. Most professional whitetail biologists and deer managers have really scratched their heads on this one. First of all is the whole issue of finding, trapping, and relocating panthers into whitetail habitats, a logistical nightmare for sure. Then as one biologist suggested, “What happens after the panthers eat all the deer.” Let’s be careful what we ask for, and not be stupid about it.