Deer Surveys and Results
Since 1997, The Town of Kiawah Island has conducted spotlight surveys to determine the white-tailed deer density on Kiawah Island. These surveys are done several times per year and allow biologists to track population trends over time. The information gathered from these surveys is used to determine future management plans and to determine the effects of past management practices.
Annual deer densities (deer per square mile) are shown in the figure below.
Deer research on Kiawah
Because deer overabundance is a significant problem in many areas of the country, the Town of Kiawah Island, in conjunction with the University of Georgia School of Forest Resources, studied the size and health of the deer herd on the island between 1996-2005. Initial research showed that the deer herd was healthy and in excellent nutritional condition, but that deer-vehicle collisions were a significant problem.
Fertility Control Program
In order to better manage the island’s deer herd, an experimental fertility-control program was initiated in January 1999. This exciting research was conducted within the central third of the island from 1999-2002. Post-study analysis has shown 50% fewer fawns in this area as well as a reduction in deer-vehicle collisions of approximately 75%. These declines in population numbers and vehicle collision rates were caused by a combination of direct and indirect factors, including the fertility control program and an increase in the efficiency of bobcats as predators of deer fawns.
Fawn Mortality Study
Beginning in 2002, the Town of Kiawah, in partnership with the University of Georgia, conducted a Fawn Mortality Study. The goals of the fawn mortality study were to determine the recruitment ratio (the percentage of fawns which survive to adulthood) in the population, and to determine the primary factors of fawn mortality, specifically the role of bobcats. This 4-year study ended in 2005 and determined that bobcat predation is the major factor influencing fawn mortality (bobcats killed 55% of 129 deer fawns collared during the study), and that bobcats along with other mortality factors are able to maintain the deer population at current levels.
Deer management on Kiawah
The management of the deer herd on Kiawah Island is an ongoing process in which many management techniques are discussed and evaluated. A wealth of information has been gathered during the last twenty years which will allow wildlife biologists to determine the best deer management practices for the island. Historically, Kiawah’s deer population was controlled by natural predators, including bobcats and alligators. Beginning in 2021, a deer harvest program was initiated to reduce the deer population to target levels of 80 deer per square mile.