Ask The Biologist



By Bob Humphrey

Does the presence of dogs push deer off a hunting property?

QUESTION: If there are dogs running wild on our hunting lease in North Georgia and they are running the deer year ‘round, will this lower the deer density on our 1,605 acres? Also, do these wild dogs find and eat the fawns like coyotes? I would say yes, but I am not a biologist. We had a trapper come on our lease to trap coyotes, but he only got one in the one week he trapped on the lease. I don’t know for sure if it is the dogs running wild or the coyotes, but our deer densities and sightings are down quite a bit. — Nivia W.

ANSWER: Anything that increases disturbance and, more importantly, stresses deer has the potential to lower deer densities. The more energy and attention deer must pay avoiding predators, the less they have to devote toward bearing and raising young.

Wild or feral dogs may also act as predators and can even be worse than coyotes because they often kill purely for sport whereas coyotes kill primarily for food. Once they’ve killed and eaten, coyotes might not kill again for some time. Free-running dogs will kill as many and as often as they can. Whether they actually consume their prey probably varies with individuals.

That’s not to say coyotes aren’t very important deer predators. Numerous recent studies from the South — the Carolinas, Alabama and Georgia — have all shown coyotes are having a major impact on deer production and recruitment rates. Doe-to-fawn ratios are down and as a result, and so are overall deer numbers.

If you’re not already doing so, I recommend setting out trail cameras to get a better idea what’s going on out there when you’re not around. See if you have dogs, coyotes or both, and look at deer densities and doe-to-fawn ratios and overall deer numbers.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd