Rooted in Research

Reading the Foodscape: Advances in White-Tailed Deer Habitat Management

Cover image for Research ReviewWhite-tailed deer have an interesting and complicated recent history. While widespread hunting nearly a century ago drastically reduced the species' population, conservation programs and regulated hunting have caused overall populations to rebound significantly. For decades, high-density deer populations have suppressed forest growth, decimated certain wildflower and shrub species, and degraded habitat for wildlife and recreation.

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For more information contact

Andrea Brandon
Science Delivery Specialist
USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station

Key Management Considerations

  • High-density deer populations can suppress forest growth, wipe out some plant species, and degrade habitat for wildlife and recreation.
  • Deer management has tended to rely on hunting for population control, with less emphasis on habitat health and biodiversity.
  • Ongoing research by the Northern Research Station and its partners is helping land and wildlife managers evaluate deer habitat and hunting strategies by examining forest health and biodiversity.
  • In northern Pennsylvania, when about 20 percent of a square-mile area was managed to provide a healthy deer forage “foodscape,” the negative deer-browsing impact was reduced so much that the area resembled a fenced off area where deer were kept out all together.

Last modified: 8/4/2020