Evaluating capture methods for urban white-tailed deer Academic Article uri icon


  • Wildlife management involving public participation is becoming commonplace. Given that successful management of natural resources increasingly depends on securing public cooperation, wildlife capture methods deemed unethical by the public should be avoided if possible. When evaluating the ethical use of wildlife capture techniques, the public sees animals as individuals while the wildlife profession focuses on populations and communities. Problems may arise when these differing perceptions of wildlife dictate different capture techniques. The capture of urban white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on private lands both typifies and magnifies the dissonance between wildlife managers and the public rooted in their different constructs of nature. We analyzed capture techniques from 1) a literature review of white-tailed deer capture and 2) our own experiences working with the endangered Key deer (O. v. clavium) to determine the most suitable methods for minimizing problems associated with the differing social perspectives of wildlife. Many historical studies used drugs to immobilize, tranquilize, or sedate deer after physical capture and were characterized by high (>5%) mortality. Some studies also focused on demonstrating statistical differences in mortality between capture methods rather than decreasing mortality. Drop nets, drive nets, hand capture, net guns, dart guns, and box traps all were used by some researchers with mortality approaching 0. Modified drop nets and drive nets are appropriate methods for urban deer capture because they are passive, silent, fast, yield low mortality and injury rates, and are not associated by the public with weapons. Urban wildlife capture techniques with these attributes demonstrate respect for the public's individualistic view of wildlife and can be combined with education to generate support for research and management in urban areas.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Peterson, M. N., Lopez, R. R., Frank, P. A., Peterson, M. J., & Silvy, N. J.

complete list of authors

  • Peterson, MN||Lopez, RR||Frank, PA||Peterson, MJ||Silvy, NJ

publication date

  • December 2003