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    Evaluation of Deer Damage to Hay in Southern Wisconsin

    Published: 01 June 1979

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    This study evaluated the spotlight method of assessing hay losses due to deer (Odocoileus virginianus) grazing. This method uses the mean number of deer feeding in a field per night, an estimated daily consumption of 1.36 kg per deer, and the length of the growing season in days to calculate the total losses for a field. The authors counted deer on 22 different hay fields to obtain variability in deer use. The number of deer in a field on any particular night was extremely variable. This variability required over 100 nightly counts in order to have a mean estimate within 0.5 deer. Exclosures were set up on two study plots to determine the differences in yield between grazed and ungrazed hay. There was a significant reduction in yield in all three cuttings of both study plots. The damage was only to the alfalfa portion of the hay. Grazing on the first hay crop had a carry-over effect on subsequent crops. Based on deer counts on the study plots and the reduction in yield between the exclosure and unprotected areas, the reduction in yield per night of deer use ranged from 1 to 31 kg for the three cuttings on the two study plots. The authors recommend that the spotlight method for assessing deer damage to hay be abandoned because of the time required to develop a reliable estimate of deer use and because of the variability of the hay's response to grazing.


    vertebrate pest control, white-tailed deer damage, hay losses, spotlight, deer counts

    Author Information:

    Mullen, CA
    Research assistant and professor, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis

    Rongstad, OJ
    Research assistant and professor, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis

    Committee/Subcommittee: E35.17

    DOI: 10.1520/STP34969S