North Carolina Deer Numbers Decline, Possible Solutions Offered

   05.03.17

North Carolina Deer Numbers Decline, Possible Solutions Offered

North Carolina hunters grumbled last year about a poor whitetail deer population, and recent statistics released by the state Wildlife Resources Commission confirm what was a rumor.

The Commission reports a drop in the overall deer harvest of almost eight percent between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, with last year’s harvest 148,811 animals–11.2 percent below the decade average.

The Commission’s statistics show harvest decline across all nine of the state’s wildlife districts, from 1.2 percent in the extreme western mountain to 14.1 percent in the northern Piedmont.

“We expect to see annual variations in harvest for various reasons, including weather, mast crop, disease, hunter effort and hunter selectivity,” said Jonathan Shaw, the Commission’s deer biologist. “Our mast crop was spotty, but some areas had good mast, which can lead to declines in deer activity and hunter deer harvest. The largest decline occurred in the northern Piedmont, which had some hemorrhagic disease problems.

“There are some possible solutions to declining deer numbers,” Shaw said. “These include promoting hunting and trapping of coyotes, habitat improvement, doe harvest management and harvest timing.”

Three counties along the Roanoke River led the state in total harvest: Northampton with 4,213, Halifax at 3,937 and Bertie at 3,165. Randolph and Rockingham counties completed the top five at 2,935 and 2,900.

Urban counties were tops in one harvest category that the Commission keeps up with: antlered bucks per square mile. Mecklenburg County led with 5.28 antlered bucks per square mile, followed by Forsyth with 4.64, Alleghany with 4.23, Gaston with 3.98, and Cabarrus with 3.89.

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