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"LI E) R.AFLY 

OF THE 
UNIVERSITY 
or ILLINOIS 



cop .2 



i.A I UKAL HISTORY 
SURVEY 




STATE OF ILLINOIS 

William G. Stratton, Governor 

DEPARTMENT OF REGISTRATION AND EDUCATION 

Vera M. Binks, Director 



WHITE -TAILED DEER 

POPULATIONS 

IN ILLINOIS 



Lysle R. Pietsch 








June, 1954 



Biological Notes No. 34 

Printed by Authority of the Slate of Illinois 

NATURAL HISTORY SURVEY DIVISION 

Harlow B. Mills, Chief 

Urbana, Illinois 



NATURAL 




4 





■ s! 



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Fig. 1. -- White-tailed deei on the Rock Rivet range southwest of Rockford. This picture was taken 
on an aerial census of deer in February, 1947. 



WHITE-TAILED DEER POPULATIONS IN ILLINOIS* 



Lysle R. Pletschf 



In recent years, the public has become more 
and mote aware of increasing numbers of white- 
tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus (Boddaert), in 
Illinois, figs. 1, 2, and 3. The appearance of this 
deer in areas previously unoccupied within the 
memory of persons now living has been attended 
with keen interest and usually with enthusiasm. 
Once a herd of deer has become established, how- 
ever, and it has been found responsible for losses 
to crops and browse plants, the landowners con- 
cerned have often expressed disapproval and have 
requested assistance with its management. 

In response to complaints of landowners in 
critical areas, the Illinois Department of Conser- 
vation in 1942 initiated a program of trapping and 
redistributing nuisance deer. The action precip- 
itated questions as to (1) the effectiveness of the 
program in reducing destruction of field crops and 
woody plants, (2) the suitability of habitat in which 
releases of deer might be made, and (3) the sub- 
sequent success of releases. The Department was 
concerned with the problem of determining whether 
this increasing game species should be hunted. 
Some sportsmen, the bow-and-arrow enthusiasts in 
particular, expressed the belief that deer numbers 
had reached sudi proportions in some areas of 
Illinois that a limited amount of deer hunting could 
and should be permitted. 

The need for answers to the above questions 
resulted in the creation of a research project for 
deer. This project, undertaken by the Illinois 
Natural History Survey in the fall of 1946, was 
continued until April 1, 1947, when the Illinois 
Natural History Survey and the Illinois Department 
of Conservation entered into a co-operative agree- 
ment concerning deer research and set up Illinois 
Federal Aid Project No. 33-R under terms of the 
Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. The 
second project was terminated on June 30, 1951. 
The data presented in this paper were, with a few 
minor exceptions, collected during the life of the 
two projects. 



Acknowledgments 

The research involved in the deer projects and 
reported upon here was done under the direction 
of Dr. Harlow B. Mills, Mr. Willet N. Wandell, and 
Dr. Thomas G. Scott, all of the Illinois Natural 
History Survey. Dr. Scott and Mr. James S. Ayars, 
Illinois Natural History Survey, contributed impor- 
tantly to the preparation of this manuscript for 
publication. Director Glen D. Palmer, Mr. Louis 
Martin, and Mr. Joe B. Davidson of the Illinois 
Department of Conservation gave encouraging 
interest that was highly valued. Mr. Clayton C. 
Swears, Mr. Edward A. Fitzgerald, Mr. William 
Cloe, and Mr. William D. Carter, as employees of 
the Illinois Department of Conservation, contributed 
much useful data. 

The photographs were made by several staff 
members of the Department of Conservation and 
the Natural History Survey: Mr. Wandell and Mr. 
William E. Qark of the Survey, the author, and 
others. 

Thanks are due for helpful assistance by 
conservation officers in all parts of the state, 
especially for that of Mr. Paul Beebe of Ogle 
County; also for the friendly co-operation of 
farmers in the Rock River range, particularly that 
of Mr. Thomas E. Colloton and Mr. William I. 
Boetcher. 

Early Status 

When white settlers arrived in Illinois early 
in the eighteenth century, deer were common here, 
but probably not numerous. At that time the native 
vegetation consisted largely of extensive areas of 
two basic types of plant communities, the prairie 
and the hardwood forest. These, within them- 
selves, probably did not support an abundance of 
deer. It was where the prairies and forests merged, 
comprising the "edge," and in the forest openings 
that deer were found in large numbers. 

A statement on the habits of Illinois deer by 



i/ This paper is based upon findings of Illinois Federal Aid Project No. 33-R, the Illinois Depart- 
ment of Conservation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Illinois Natural History Survey, 
co-operating. 

Z' Employed by the Illinois Department of Conservation under terms of the Federal Aid in Wildlife 
Restoration Act and assigned to the Illinois Natural History Survey for administrative and technical 
supervision. 



A. H. Bogaidus, a hunter and tiavelei who lived 
in Menard County, Illinois, in 1857, and who, 
recorded his impressions in the book, Field, Cover 
and Trap Shooting, published in 1874, is quoted 
by Leopold (1931:194): "It is often supposed that 
it (the deer) likes best to range in the vast forests, 
but I believe that to be a mistake. Deer are most 
fond of country in which there are belts of timber- 
land and brush interspersed with prairies and 
savannahs." 






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Fig. 2. — Fawn, about 1 week old, on the Rock 
River range. 

Faunistic records of early Illinois were often 
colorful but frequently they lacked preciseness. 
Nevertheless, they reflected something of the 
general trend of deer populations. Apparently 
deer numbers in Illinois did not change materially 
until after the settlement of the state had pro- 
gressed somewhat. In 1821, John Woods (1822: 
193), who had bought land in Edwards County 2 
years before, observed that "Deer are not very 
numerous. I suppose, I have seen about 100, but 
never more than five or six together." 

Some increase in the deer population seemed 
to be evident in the late 1830's. Jones (1838: 
212) wrote, "Deer are more abundant than at the 
first settlement of the country. They increase, to 
a certain extent, with the population. The reason 
for this appears to be, that they find protection 
in the neighborhood of man from the beasts of prey 
that assail them in the wilderness." 

Wood (1910:516) evidently believed that the 
peak of Illinois deer abundance was reached in 
the middle, of the nineteenth century. He stated. 



in reference to the "part of the country" of which 
he wrote (east-central Illinois), "As the wolves 
were killed or driven off, the deer became nore 
plentiful, reaching their greatest abundance be- 
tween 1845 and 1855." The importance of pre- 
dation as a limiting factor appears to have been 
overestimated by Wood, while the favorable effect 
of an increase in suitable habitat was overlooked. 
Present-day research on deer requirements has 
revealed that deer populations may be expected 
to increase whenever additional browse becomes 
available, as was the case in connection with 
many of the early lumbering and clearing oper- 
ations. 

It may be well to compare the time and cause 
of the population build-up among Illinois deer 
with the time and cause of build-ups of deer in 
Iov\a, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Madson (1953:101) 
pointed to an increase of deer in many areas of 
lov^a in the early 1850's. At that time "heavily 
timbered tracts were being cleared, and deer 
habitat was improving." Sv^^ift (1946:8) cited "a 
Wisconsin newspaper item of 1853" which "stated 
that farmers along the Wisconsin-Illinois border, 
during a winter of deep snow, killed many deer 
with clubs to save their hay from being eaten by 
these starving animals." He noted that southern 
Wisconsin at the time of its settlement had a tre- 
mendous amount of forest "edge" and that there- 
fore "conditions were highly ideal for deer." From 
Donald McLeod's History of Wiskonsan, written in 
1846, Swift (1946:12) quoted this sentence: "But 
what seems very remarkable is that ever since the 
departure of the red man to the west of the Missis- 
sippi, the deer seem to have increased threefold." 
Barnes (1945:5) presented figures and dates that 
indicated Indiana saw its greatest deer population 
before* 1878, probably about the middle of the 
nineteenth century. Like Swift (1946:17) and 
Madson (1953:101), he associated an increase in 
deer numbers with clearing or pioneer farming 
operations. "The small pioneer farm created more 
'edge,' which temporarily increased the number of 
deer," Barnes wrote. 

Available information, then, seems to indicate 
that deer populations of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, 
and southern Wisconsin reached their peaks at 
about the same time, approximately the middle of 
the nineteenth century, and for the same reason, 
increases in habitat favorable to deer. 

Initially the settlers and resident Indians 
killed deer for their own use. Subsequently, kill- 
ing and selling of deer became a common practice. 
Woods (1822:194), who arrived in Edwards County, 



Illinois, late in 1819, wrote, "I bought several 
[deer] in the winter, the greater part without their 
skins, at one dollar each, but one or two higher; 
one weighed more than 100 lb. weight. They 
generally weigh from 60 lb. to 100 lb. A good skin 
is worth fifty cents: their horns, though large, are 
of no value here." Of life in Pike County, Illinois, 
in 1831, Rebecca Burlend (1848:22) reported,, 
"Mr. Oakes .... came to invite my husband to 
buy some venison, which he had killed with his 
rifle just before." Mrs, Burlend's husband bought 
"a quantity of nice venison at a halfpenny per 
pound." Jones (1838:213) described what appeared 
to be a sopiewhat wasteful exploitation: "Immense 
numbers of deer are killed every year by the 
hunters, who take them for the hams and skins 
alone, throwing away the rest of the carcase. 
Venison hams and hides are important articles of 
export. Fresh hams usually sell at from seventy- 
five cents to one dollar and fifty cents a pair, and 
when properly cured, are a delicious article of 
food." 

In the early part of the nineteenth century, 
use of the deer resource had not progressed to the 
point where many herds were being greatly de- 
pleted; in fact, many herds were showing popu- 
lation increases. Some time prior to 1853, a 
tapering off of peak numbers must have been 
evident in the northern and northeastern parts of 
the state. In that year, the state legislature 
passed a law which prohibited the killing of deer 
between January 1 and July 20 in the following 
counties: Lake, McHenry, Boone, Winpebago, 
Ogle, De Kalb, Kane, Du Page, Cook, Will, Ken- 
dall, La Salle, Grundy, Stephenson, and Sangamon 
(Purple 1856:391). 

It seems reasonable to believe that increas- 
ingly restrictive laws governing the hunting of 
deer reflected continued reduction in their numbers. 
In 1855 a closed season between January 15 and 
August 1 became effective throughout the state, 
except for designated counties, most of them in 
the lower parts of the Illinois and Embarrass river 
valleys and the southern one-fourth of the state 
(Purple 1856:391-2). This trend in law making 
suggests a noticeable falling off of the northern 
and central Illinois herds. Yet Bogardus was 
quoted by Leopold (1931:194) as stating that deer 
were "exceedingly plentiful" when, in 1857, he 
first arrived in Illinois (Menard County, one of the 
counties not included in the 1855 legislation). 

The major reduction of the deer population 
which had been built up during the early days of 
settlement took place probably between 1850 and 



1870. The human population in Illinois increased 
from 55,211 in 1820 to 1,300,251 in 1855 (Gerhard 
1857:218). During the next 15 years, the popu- 
lation increased to 2,539,891. The tremendous 
increases in human population greatly accelerated 
the clearing of the wilderness that remained (Cole 
1919:1). While openings created in the forests by 
the early pioneers provided the means for deer 
population growth, the industriousness of settlers 
and farmers of a later period increased the tempo 
of the clearing process to the point where suitable 
deer food and shelter were greatly curtailed. The 
destruction of deer habitat, together with the 
killing of deer for food and sport, and possibly for 
protection of crops, resulted eventually in a great- 
ly reduced deer population. 

During the middle of the nineteenth century, 
the deer herds in Iowa, southern Wisconsin, and 
Indiana were also undergoing reductions in num- 
bers. In Iowa, deer were taken in large numbers 
by the settlers, and many were slaughtered shortly 
after the severe blizzard of 1856; with more in- 
tensive land use they were greatly reduced in 
numbers (Scott 1937:83). In southern Wisconsin, 
heavy hunting and "the tremendous human impact 
on the land" were thought by Swift (1946:16) to 
have been primary reasons for the decline in deer 
numbers there. In Indiana, the decrease in deer 
numbers was found by Barnes (1945: 5) to have been 
the result of clearing the land for a predominantly 
agricultural state. 

In 1873, the Illinois legislature by statute 
prohibited the killing of deer anywhere in the 
state between January 1 and August 15 (Hurd 
1874:547). This statute seems to indicate that 
the southern as well as the northern herds had 
been greatly reduced in numbers by about 1870. 
By 1901, the deer population must have reached 
a very low level, for the legislature provided com- 
plete protection throughout the state for 5 years 
(Hurd 1901:963) and it has continued to give 
complete protection since that time. 

Although it has not been established that 
deer were entirely extirpated from all sections 
of Illinois, it seems probable that "the last deer 
seen" progressed, by counties, from north to south. 
Leopold (1931:191, map) recorded no wild deer 
for the northern half of Illinois after 1874. His 
survey indicated that the last northern Illinois 
deer seen was in Ford County. It is possible, 
however, that deer existed in Illinois in the vi- 
cinity of the Kankakee River at a still later date. 
Barnes (1945:5) wrote, "Even as late as 1878, 
sixty- five of these animals [deer] were bagged in 



a single day in the Kankakee region," in Indiana, 
and added that "Deei made their last stand [in 
Indiana] in the marshy expanse of the Kankakee 
and in the cypress swamps of Knox county. The 
last wild deer was seen near Red Cloud in Knox 
county in 1893." 

Because the deer that lived in Knox County 
and along the Kankakee River in Indiana did not 
disappear until some time between 1878 and 1893, 
it is conceivable that, during that period, some of 
these animals wandered into Illinois and lived 
here for short periods of time. 

For Champaign County, in east-central Illi- 
nois, Wood (1910:516) reported that a deer "was 
seen near Homer as late as 1880." 

In southern Illinois, remnants of the original 
herds held on much longer. Cory (1912:62) told 
of a letter dated April 7, 1910, in which C. J. 
Boyd of Anna had written, "There are a few Deer 
in the hills in this county [Union] and in Alexander 
County." Supporting this information is a state- 
ment by Aldo Leopold, in an unpublished report of 
May 1, 1929, to the Game Restoration Committee, 
Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' 
Institute, that Ed. C. Karraker of Jonesboro said 
"that wild deer of native stock did not disappear 
from Union County until about 1910." No data 
postdating these records of wild deer of native 
stock in southern Illinois have been uncovered; 
therefore, it is believed that the original Illinois 
white- tailed deer herds probably were exterminated 
shortly thereafter. 

Repopulation of Deer 

The white-tailed deer may have returned to 
the wild in northern Illinois through occasional 
escapes from a herd maintained near Polo by the 
late Judge John D. Campbell. It is not known 
when or where Judge Campbell obtained these 
deer. It seems reasonable to conclude that the 
Judge was maintaining a herd as early as the 
1860's. Miss Anna Parmalee, a resident of Polo, 
who was 96 when interviewed on March 21, 1952, 
recalled "seeing Judge Campbell's deer when I 
was a little girl." Attorney Harry Typer of Polo 
revealed, in an interview on the same day, that he, 
as a boy of 14, took care of Judge Campbell's 
herd of deer in 1882. Miss Parmalee and another 
elderly Polo resident, E. M. Clinton, claimed 
that deer occasionally escaped from the Judge's 
pen. Typer, however, did not believe that escapes 
occurred, and observed that "The deer were kept 
by the old Judge until his death in 1910, at which 
time the herd, then numbering 20 to 25 animals. 



was turned loose on the Scott McMillan farm," 
located about 5 miles northeast of Polo in Ogle 
County. These deer were thought to have sur- 
vived and increased their numbers in the wild. 

Another herd, fig. 3, which may have con- 
tributed to the repopulation of parts of northern 
Illinois with deer was kept by the late George J 
Stevens of Kishwaukee, Illinois. Harry Stevens, " 
a son, interviewed on March 18, 1952, reported 
that "In the summer of 1896 or 1897, Mr. W. A. 
Rothwell bought a doe fawn from a hotel keeper 
in Eland, Wisconsin. Mr. Rothwell gave this 
animal to my father and he kept it in a pen on his 
farm 1 mile west of Kishwaukee. It was given the 
name Fanny. In the fall of 1898, my father secured 
a buck from Judge Campbell of Polo. This buck, 
Sam, and Fanny were successful in raising a 
number of fawns in the ensuing years. Occasion- 
ally one of the penned animals escaped; the entire 
herd, 10 or 12 at the time, was lost in the spring 
of about 1903, when a tornado felled trees on the 
pen, letting the deer out." These observations 
were substantiated by Lester R. Rothwell, a 
brother-in-law of the late George Stevens in a 
letter dated March 28, 1952. In referring to the 
herd following its escape from the Stevens pen, 
he stated, "The first year they stayed in F. C. 
Johnson's orchard; then went to the woods along 
Rock River; later along the Kishwaukee." j 

From all accounts it seems apparent that 
these two released herds contributed to the re- 
population of parts of northern Illinois with wild 
deer early in the twentieth century. Also, it is 
conceivable that an occasional deer may have 
wandered into Illinois from Wisconsin at that 
time. 

A release worthy of record, because of its 
location, was made at the Savanna Ordinance 
Depot in Carroll County, northern Illinois, at 
some time in the middle 1930's. Sergeant Albert 
Bingham (retired) stated, in an interview on May 
22, 1952, that in about 1936 he had released there 
a buck and a doe obtained from the Mount Vernon 
Game Farm. Later he released a doe obtained 
from the Springfield Game Farm in 1937 and a 
buck obtained from the same place in 1938. Ser- 
geant Bingham indicated that fawns were pro- 
duced by these deer. His releases are thought to 
have been successful, as, during the census of 
1950-51, a population of about 100 deer was 
estimated for Carroll County. 

The circumstances and dates of the return of 
wild deer to southern Illinois are not clear. Ben- 
nitt & Nagel (1937:80) reported an estimated 



^ 




Fig. 3. — Reproduction of photograph, now faded, taken of doe, Fanny, and buck, Sam, probably in 
the late 1890's. These deer and their offspring, two of which are shown here, were owned by the late 
George Stevens of Kishwaukee. They are believed to have provided the nucleus for a herd that contrib- 
uted to the repopulation of the Rock River deer range in northern Illinois. 



population of 15 and 17 wild deer, respectively, 
in 1925 and 1926 in Ste. Genevieve County, 
Missouri, across the Mississippi River from 
Randolph County, Illinois. A legal kill of 18 deer 
was reported for Ste. Genevieve County by hunters 
during four open seasons, 1933-1936, There was no 
open season in the period 1925-1930 (Bennitt & 
Nagel 1937:79). Some of these Missouri deer, 
possibly stimulated by hunting pressure, may have 
made their way across the river into such Illinois 
counties as Union, Jackson, and Randolph. The 
late Ernest L. Mills, in an unpublished report 
written in 1935 while he was with the Civilian 
Conservation Corps in southern Illinois, recorded 
that a friend of one of the men he interviewed had 
seen a deer in Union County about 1932; in the 
opinion of the observer, the deer had come in from 
Missouri. 



The deliberate release of deer in southern 
Illinois was begun by the Illinois Department of 
Conservation in the 1930's. So far as is known, 
the first release in southern Illinois was that 
made on the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge in 
1933 and reported by Leopold, Sowls, & Spencer 
(1947:166). One buck and three does were re- 
leased on this occasion. 

The next recorded southern Illinois release 
was made by the United States Forest Service in 
the Shawnee National Forest. In this instance, 
five deer, two bucks and three does, were turned 
out near Belle Smith Springs in Pope County in 
December, 1935. These animals were sent from 
Augusta, Michigan, by H. D. Ruhl of the Michigan 
Department of Conservation. In addition, records 
reveal, four deer, sex unknown, were obtained in 
March, 1936, from the Mount Vernon Game Farm 



„L ... ■ ... I"' 

f 









Fig. 4. — Setting box-type tiap used to catch deei on 
the Rock River range in northern Illinois. 



Fig. 5. — Transfer box into which 
captured deer is driven from trap. 




Fig. 6. — Weighing deer in transfer box. 



Fig. 7. -- Tagging deer in transfer box. 




Fig. 8. — Doe breaking for freedom after having been trucked in transfer case from Rock River range 
and released in new environment. 



8 



and released in the Union County State Forest 
near Jonesboro. 

In a letter dated April 21, 1953, Conrad W. 
Carlson, then acting supervisor of the Shawnee 
National Forest, wrote, "As to the success of 
the early plantings, it appears that deer were 
observed on rare occasions beginning in 1936. 
The animals were listed as rare in our annual 
reports from 1936-41." 

No other releases are known to have been 
made until the winter of 1942-43, when the re- 
moval, by live trapping, of deer from the island of 
the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge to various 
southern and central Illinois counties was initi- 
ated. Therefore, it appears that the early develop- 
ment of the present southern Illinois herds came 
about principally from the three releases described 
above, and possibly in addition from an ingress 
of wild deer from Missouri. 

The program of live trapping and redis- 
tributing deer, undertaken by the Department of 
Conservation during the winter of 1942-43, has 
contributed greatly to the present wide distribu- 

Table 1. - Summary of deer trapping on the is- 
land of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge, Alexander 
County, Illinois, 1942-1953. (Weight in pounds.) 





Total 


Average 


Trapping 


Year 


Catch 


Weight 


Losses 


1942-43 


50* 


— 


— 


1943-44 


75* 


— 


— 


1944-45 


62 


— 


— 


1945-46 


24 




~ 


1946-47 


25 




— 


1947-48 


59 


96.2 


1 


1948-49 


9 


— 





1949-50 





— 





1950-51 


72 


103.8 


4 


1951-52 


46 


107.6 


1 


1952-53 


17 


113.9 





Total 


439 




6 



* Estimated number. 



tion of deer in Illinois, figs. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. From 
the fall of 1942 to the spring of 1953, approx- 
imately 439 deer were trapped on the island of 
the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge and about 433 
were redistributed to various Illinois counties, 
table 1. From the fall of 1946 to the spring of 
1953, 158 deer were trapped on the Rock River 
range and 153 were relocated, principally in 
southern Illinois, table 2. In addition, in the 
winter of 1952, 11 deer were removed from the 
Springfield Game Farm and released in three cen- 
tral Illinois counties. Thus, about 600 Illinois 
deer have been introduced into new surroundings 
through redistribution. 

Records of the Illinois Department of Conser- 
vation on the redistribution of deer prior to 1947 
have been lost. C. E. Laughery,who was in charge 
of deer trapping at the Horseshoe Lake Game 
Refuge from the fall of 1942 to the spring of 1944, 
reported that releases were made in many counties 
of the state in that period. Complete records, most 
of them summarized in tables 3 and 4, were main- 
tained from the fall of 1947 to the spring of 1953. 
During that time, 347 deer from all sources were 
released in 18 counties, fig. 9. 

In addition to animals represented by the 
redistribution records listed in tables 3 and 4, two 
deer that were obtained along the Rock River near 
Byron were released in Cook County in the spring 
of 1950. As fawns, these animals had been injured 
by farming operations, nursed to health by farmers, 
and subsequently turned over to the Department of 
Conservation for disposition. Also, 11 deer, 
trapped on the Springfield Game Farm in February 
and March of 1952, were released in four counties 
as follows: 2 in Cook, 3 in Clark, 3 in Piatt, and 
3 in Sangamon. 

There probably has been some recent migra - 
tion into Illinois from adjacent states. Although 
verified observations are lacking, this influx may 
have taken place from Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, 
and Indiana. 



Table 2 


. - Summary of deer 


trapping on the Rock River 


range in Ogle and 


Winnebago counties, 


Illinois, 1946-1953. (Weight in pounds.) 








Year 


Bucks 


Does 


Sex Ratio 


Total Catch 


Average Weight 


Trapping Losses 


1946-47 


8 


7 




0.88 


15 


-. 





1947-48 


19 


23 




1.21 


42 


96.0 





1948-49 


26 


21 


1 


0.81 


47 


84.3 


4 


1949-50 


5 


8 




1.60 


13 


72.7 





1950-51 


20 


21 




1.05 


41 


84.9 


1 


1951-52 








— 


— 


~ 


— 


1952-53 








- 


- 


- 


— 


Total 


78 


80 


1:1.03 


158 


- 


5 



Table 3. - Number of deer trapped on the Rock River range in Ogle and Winnebago counties, 
Illinois, and relocated by counties, 1947-1951. 



County 


1947-48 


1948-49 


1949-50 


1950-51 


Total 


Carroll 


-- 


2 


— 


.. 


2 


Gallatin 


— 


12 


7 


-- 


19 


Hardin 


5 


~ 


~ 


6 


11 


Jo Daviess 


2 


— 


— 


— 


2 


Lee 


4 


3 


— 


-- 


7 


Perry 


~ 


« 


6 


— 


6 


Pope 


31 


26 


" 


34 


91 


Total 


42 


43 


13 


40 


138 



Table 4. - Number of deer trapped on the island of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge, Alexander 
County, Illinois, and relocated by counties, 1947-1953. 



County 


1947-48 


1948-49 


1949-50 


1950-51 


1951-52 


1952-53 


Total 


Alexander 


— 




— 


13 


.- 


7 


20 


Fayette 


— 


— 


— 


-. 


5 


.. 


5 


Gallatin 


7 


— 


— 


28 


9 


4 


48 


Hamilton 


— 


~ 


— 


5 


14 


— 


19 


Hardin 


14 


~ 


— 


-- 


— 


— 


14 


Jackson 


— 


9 


— 


.- 


— 


— 


9 


Massac 


— 


— 


— 


20 


4 


6 


30 


Perry 


— 


— 


— 


— 


5 


— 


5 


Pope 


33 


- 


— 


— 




— 


33 


Saline 


— 


— 


— 


— 


8 


— 


8 


Union 


4 


— 


~ 


1 


— 


— 


5 


Total 


58 


9 





67 


45 


17 


196 



Geographic Distribution 

That the Illinois area occupied by deer has 
been greatly expanded in recent years is denoted 
by the increasing numbers of counties in which the 
animals have been found. Reports of conservation 
officers for 1947 indicate that in that year deer 
were to be found in 45 of the 102 counties of the 
state. Reports from the same source show that by 
1949 deer were present in 62 counties, by 1950, 
in 68 counties. Data obtained following the last 
conservation officer report, that of 1950, indicate 
that deer were present in at least 74 counties early 
in 1953, fig. 10. To a large group of counties in 
east-central Illinois, deer have not returned. This 
group is in the intensively farmed black prairie 
region, and very little habitat which might be 
considered suitable for deer exists in this area. 

Although deer are widely distributed in 
Illinois, the reader should not assume that all the 
acceptable deer ranges in the state are fully 
occupied, fig. 11. In northern Illinois, only some 
portions of the Rock River range, fig. 12, which 
is located along the Rock and Kishwaukee rivers 



and their tributaries in De Kalb, Lee, Ogle, and 
Winnebago counties, are Carrying a capacity pop- 
ulation of deer. While most suitable ranges in the 
state contain some deer, the populations of many 
of these ranges can increase severalfold before 
carrying capacities are reached. 

For example, much of the land not suitable 
for cultivation along some of the larger rivers in 
Illinois appears capable of supporting much larger 
deer herds than are now present there. Of major 
importance are such areas as the Mississippi 
River bluffs in Joe Daviess, Carroll, and Whiteside 
counties, the riverbreak country along the Illinois 
River in Bureau, Putnam, and Marshall counties, 
and the Kaskaskia River bottoms in Fayette, 
Clinton, and Washington counties. 

By far the most promising deer range in Illinois 
is to be found in and adjacent to the Shawnee 
National Forest in southern Illinois, fig. 12. Nine 
counties are represented in the Shawnee's 
1,500,000 acres of forest and potential forest land. 
Much of this land is primarily suitable only for 
growing trees, because the fertility of the soil is 
low and the slopes are steep. The deer herds 



10 





Fig. 9. — Number of deer (represented by Fig. 10. — Illinois counties in which one or 

numerals) released in counties of Illinois by the more deer were reported to be present in early 
Department of Conservation, 1947-1953. 1953 (represented by hatching). 




SEVERSON AND 
FUNDERBURG 



o 




ROCK RIVER RANGE 



COUNTIES IN PRINCIPAL l--» 

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS RANGE 



HORSESHOE LAKE 
GAME REFUGE 



Fig. 11. — Number of deer (represented by 
numerals) in Illinois counties, winter of 1950-51. 
(Most of data from conservation officers.) 



Fig. 12. — Principal Illinois deer ranges and 
areas of concentration (Severson and Funderburg 
estates and Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge). 



11 



should be favored by the sustained yield policies 
of forest management in effect there. 

Studies made in 1949 and 1950 in eight 
counties in the Shawnee National Forest and one 
adjacent county show that deer were present on 
only about 203,000 of the 439,087-acre area exam- 
ined, table 5. Resident landowners provided con- 
siderable information in drawing the line between 
occupied and unoccupied ranges. In addition, 
foresters, conservation officers, and interested 
sportsmen contributed helpful sight records. 

From data given in table 5 can be calculated 
the proportion of each of several cover types 
occupied by deer: 43.5 per cent of the upland hard- 
woods, 49.8 per cent of the bottomland mixed hard- 
woods, and 87.8 per cent of the pin oak flats. As 
the early deer releases were made indiscriminately 
in these three cover types, it is thought that the 
greater use of the pin oak flats showed that deer 
preferred this type. The upland hardwoods, which 
comprised the largest land area by far, appeared 
to be least desirable. It is believed that most of 
the unoccupied area is capable of supporting deer 
herds. Some of the deer removed from areas in 
which the animals were too numerous or destructive 
were released in parts of this unoccupied area 
during the winters of 1951-52 and 1952-53. 

Populations 

An effort to assemble population data on the 
various deer herds of Illinois was begun in the 
spring of 1947. Reports received from conser- 
vation officers at that time indicated that deer 
were showing a general increase and appearing in 
counties not occupied by them in the recent past. 

Deer population estimates were made for the 
winters of 1949-50 and 1950-51. These were 
based on data obtained from three sources: (1) 
conservation officers, (2) aerial censuses of the 
Rock River range, and (3) deer drives on the 
island of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge. The 
data indicated state-wide populations of about 
2,550 in 1949-50 and more than 3,075 in 1950-51. 
The distribution of the 1950-51 deer populations 
by counties is shown in fig. 11. Location of the 
principal deer ranges is shown in fig. 12. 

Reports from conservation officers indicate 
the nature of the population trend during the 1949- 
1951 period, table 6. The number of counties for 
which increased deer populations were reported 
in both 1949-50 and 1950-51 was far greater than 
the number for which reduced populations were 
reported. In addition, deer were reported present 



in six more counties in the winter of 1950-51 than 
in the previous winter. 

Population on the Rock River Range. —The 
earliest information on the deer population that 
occupied the Rock River range, fig. 12, following 
the escapes and releases mentioned previously, 
was obtained from Dr. David H. Thompson of the 
Forest Preserve District of Cook County on 
August 20, 1953. Dr. Thompson reported that, 
while he was conducting a full-time study of the 
Rock River from Sterling to the mouth of the 
Kishwaukee River in 1925 and 1926 for the Illinois 
Natural History Survey, he learned from the local 
people much about the number of deer in the area. 
After noting this type of information for 2 years, 
he estimated a population of about 200 deer for 
Ogle and Winnebago counties between Dixon and 
Rockford. 

Deer on the Rock River range were censused 
from the air in February of 1947, 1949, and 1950, 
and in December of 1950. Swears (1948:12) de- 
scribed the initial survey, which was conducted in 
Ogle and Winnebago counties by Willet N. Wandell 
of the Illinois Natural History Survey and William 
L. Preno of the Illinois Department of Conserva- 
tion. Aerial photographs were taken by Wandell 
on this survey, fig. 1 and back cover. 

Estimates based on a complete aerial survey 
of brushy and wooded areas in which deer normally 
ranged proved to be of greater accuracy than 
estimates obtained by sampling the area along 
predetermined flight strips. Figures derived from 
the strip census were found unreliable because 
this type of census did not eliminate the bias 
introduced by the extremely uneven distribution 
of deer on the Rock River range in winter. 

In an unpublished report, Wandell stated that 
the area censused during the first survey, in 
February, 1947, comprised 8,110 acres of wood- 
land in close proximity to the Rock River in Ogle 
and Winnebago counties. Observations revealed 
a total of 655 deer in the censused area. Wandell 
estimated that three of every four deer in the 
censused area were seen and recorded and cal- 
culated the population for the censused area as 
872. He estimated that 67 per cent of the deer 
range in these two counties had been surveyed, 
and he apparently assumed that the deer density 
in the uncensused area was equal to that in the 
censused area. Using the data then available, 
he calculated that the deer population of Ogle 
and Winnebago counties was 1,295. The writer 
believes that this initial estimate of the popu- 
lation was too high, for subsequent surveys 



12 



Table 5. - Estimated acreages of woodland occupied and unoccupied by deer in nine southern Illinois 
counties, 1949-50.* 



County 


Bottomland Mixed Hardwoods 


Pin Oak Flats 


Upland Hardwoods 


Occupied 


Unoccupied 


Occupied 


Unoccupied 


Occupied 


Unoccupied 


Alexander 

Gallatin 

Hardin 

Jackson 

Johnson 

Massac 

Pope 

Pulaski 

Union 

Total 


18,208 
1,553 
3,296 
6,286 
9,124 
3,283 
5,959 

11,733 
59,442 


21,305 

14,668 

8,293 

15,738 

60,004 


3,813 
40 

1,806 

847 
1,310 

1,460 
9,276 


327 
963 

1,290 


4,813 
26,382 
10,571 
27,549 
779 
62,637 

1,609 
134,340 


37,373 
9,709 

51,227 

11,180 

4,603 
60,643 

174,735 



*The cover type classifications used in this table are modifications of classifications used in a 
forestry publication (Anonymous 1950). The new classifications were adopted after consultation with 
personnel of the University of Illinois Department of Forestry. 

Bottomland mixed hardwoods. — Chief species: cottonwood, sycamore, ash, sweetgum, soft maple, 
elm, willow, hackberry, box elder, honey locust, water locust, pecan; white, cherry bark, and water oaks. 
Sites: varies from well-drained alluvial lands to well-drained primary and secondary bottomland. 

Pin oak flats. -- Chief species: pin oak, soft maple, elm, hickories, and sweetgum. Frequently stands 
are nearly pure pin oak. Sites: poorly drained level lands. 

Upland hardwoods. — Chief species: red, white, and black oaks, hickories, maples, yellow poplar, 
beech, ash, blackgum, and sweetgum. Sites: hilly regions, coves, upland claypan areas, and stream margins. 



Table 6. - Deer population and distribution 
trends in Illinois, as reported by conservation 
officers in counties of the state, 1949-1951. 



Year 


Counties 
Reporting 


Counties 

Reporting 

Deer 


Counties 
Reporting 

Deer 
Increases 


Counties 
Reporting 

Deer 
Decreases 


1949-50 
1950-51 


102 
102 


62 
68 


35 
32 


3 

2 



showed that the deer density in the outlying areas 
was much lower than that found in the vicinity of 
the Rock River. 

The pattern of subsequent censuses was es- 
sentially the same as that of the first, but, as the 
area covered was much more extensive, the results 
are not thought suitable for comparison. The 
subsequent surveys included range in De Kalb 
and Lee counties as well as in Ogle and Winne- 
bago counties. 

In each of the censuses made in February, 
1949 and 1950, and December, 1950, the airplane 
was flown in overlapping circles, 200 to 350 feet 
above individual woodlots, until it was felt that 
all the deer below had been seen and recorded, 
table 7. These surveys were not undertaken until 
t''- snow depth exceeded 3 inches, because old 
deer beds in snow of less depth could not be read- 



ily distinguished from deer actually bedded down. 

Both two-place and four-place Piper Cub air- 
planes were used in these surveys. The slower- 
flying two-place plane permitted more intensive 
scanning of the ground; thus, this type of plane 
was thought more suitable than the faster four- 
place model. 

An observer performed the censusing duties; 
the pilot aided in locating deer, as opportunities 
permitted. 

The flying time required to complete each of 
these surveys varied between 12 and 18 hours, 
depending on the amount of range flown. As may 
be seen in table 7, the range surveyed varied 
between 63 and 83 square miles, but virtually all 
the deer counted in the three surveys were seen 
in the 63 square miles flown in February, 1949, 
and December, 1950. 

Figures in the last column in table 7 were 
arrived at by assuming that only 66 per cent of the 
deer in the region were seen from the air. This 
correction factor was derived, during the February, 
1950, census, by comparing counts made from the 
air with counts made from manpower drives in four 
widely scattered woodlots. Sixty deer were tallied 
from the air, whereas 91 were counted in the drives. 
The accuracy of the figures obtained from these 
small samples was questioned; however, since no 
other data were available from which to derive a 



13 



Table 7. - Data from aerial surveys of deer on the Rock River range, principally in Ogle and 
Winnebago counties, Illinois, 1949 and 1950. 



Date 


Range Flown, 
Square Miles 


Visibility 


Deer Seen 


Estimated 
Population 


February, 1949 
February, 1950 
December, 1950 


63 
83 
63 


Good 

Fair 

Good 


661 
559 
656 


1,002 
847 
994 



correction factor for the Rock River range, the 
calculated correction factor, 66 per cent, was used. 

It is interesting to note that the estimated 
numbers in the herds varied by only eight in the 
2 years when visibility was rated "good." In 
February of 1950, when the visibility was consid- 
ered only "fair," the estimated number was about 
150 short of the estimated number in the other 
years. The low count was thought to have reflect- 
ed a shortcoming of the aerial census, rather than 
an actual reduction in population, for the writer, 
while conducting field studies, did not observe a 
population decline between the fall of 1948 and 
the spring of 1951. Nor did landowners and con- 
servation officers in this area who were inter- 
viewed believe that the deer population had 
changed materially during this period. 

Population on the Horseshoe Lake Game 

Refuge The earliest information available 

concerning the deer population on the island of 
the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge, fig. 12, is 
that supplied by Leopold, Sowls, & Spencer (1947: 
166), who stated that the population had in- 
creased frcfm an original planting of 1 buck and 3 
does in 1933 to a total of 250 deer by 1944. The 
herd was reported to have been reduced by trap- 
ping until about 150 were present at the outset of 
the winter of 1947-48 (Swears 1948:15). 

More information on the status of the herd on 
the island of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge 
was brought to light in 1950. A drive on April 22 
of that year revealed 168 deer. The next census, 
December 9, 1950, produced a count of 195 deer. 
Nineteen animals had been removed during the 
fall of 1950 by live trapping; thus, the total popu- 
lation in early fall, 1950, is estimated to have 
been 214. This represented a 27.4 per cent in- 
crease over the spring population. 

The area per deer on the island in the spring 
of 1950 was approximately 7.1 acres; by early fall 
the area per deer had been reduced to approx- 
imately 5.6 acres. These figures represent popu- 
lation densities considered high for deer range of 
average quality. The gravity of the population 
problem on the island became especially apparent 



when it was realized that about 750 of the ap- 
proximately 1,200 acres there were being used to 
grow field crops, which in themselves were not 
desirable deer foods. 

The effects of a deer population on its range 
were discussed by O'Roke & Hamerstrom (1948) 
in their paper on the George Reserve deer herd. 
This southern Michigan herd had its beginning in 
March, 1928, when four does and two bucks were 
released in the enclosure on the reserve. Ap- 
proximately 1,200 acres in size, the reserve con- 
sisted of about 46 per cent grassland, 43 per cent 
woody vegetation, and 11 per cent marsh and bog. 

"In the fall of 1933 it became apparent that 
the deer had increased phenomenally and that 
vegetation was being drastically overused," wrote 
O'Roke & Hamerstrom (1948:79). The first deer 
drive and count on the area indicated that a deer 
population of about 160 inhabited the area in the 
early part of the winter of 1933-34. The area per 
deer for this population was approximately 7.5 
acres. 

In the winters beginning with 1933-34 and 
ending with 1940-41, the early winter herds fluc- 
tuated between 112 and 210 d^ter. O'Roke & 
Hamerstrom (1948:85) related that "There has 
been a noticeable improvement in the under-story 
since the herd was cut back to an average of about 
55 [per section] in the winter of 1941-42." The 
area per deer for this population was about 11.6 
acres. 

Writing in 1947, O'Roke & Hamerstrom (1948: 
86) stated that "there has been some recovery 
during the last four or five years, .... but the 
invasion of brush and trees into the old fields is 
still almost at a standstill." The deer density 
had declined until, early in the winter of 1946-47, 
the area per deer was about 16.2 acres. 

Sex and Age Ratios 

Data on the sex ratios of deer on the Rock 
River range were obtained from three sources: 
(1) live trapping, (2) fatality counts, and (3) field 
observations, table 8. In 4 years of trapping, 78 



14 



Table 8. - Sex ratios of deer trapped, found dead, or observed in the field on the Rock River range, 
principally in Ogle and Viinnebago counties, Illinois, 1947-1951. 



Period 


Bucks 


Does 


Buck: Doe Ratio 


Source of Data 


1947-1951 
1948-1951 
1948-1951 

Total 


78 

98 

152 

328 


80 

99 

146 

325 


1:1.03 
1:1.01 
1:0.96 

1:0.99 


Live trapping 
Fatality counts 
Field observations 



Table 9. - Sex ratios of deer trapped on the is- 
land of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge, 
Alexander Countv, Illinois, 1946 through spring 
of 1953. 









Buck: 


Year 


Bucks 


Does 


Doe Ratio 


1946-47 


I 1^ 


9 


1:0.56 


1947-48 


' 32 


26 


1:0.81 


1948-49 


4 


5 


1:1.25 


1950-51 


15 


57 


1:3.80 


1951-52 


19 


27 


1:1.42 


1952-53 


4 


13 


1:3.25 


Total 


i 90 


137 


1:1.52 



Table 10. - Data on sex and age classifications 
of 244 deer seen on the Rock Rivet range, princi- 
pally in Ogle and Winnebago counties, Illinois, 
1950. The doe to fawn ratio was 1:0.916. 



Classification 


Number 
Seen 


Per Cent of 
Total Seen 


Adult or 

yearling bucks 
Adult or 

yearling does 
Fawns 

Total 


85 

83 
76 

244 


34.8 

34.0 
31.2 

100.0 



bucks and 80 does were caught; of the fatalities 
of all kinds recorded in this area, 98 were among 
bucks and 99 were among does; and, of deer 
observed in the field, 152 were bucks and 146 
were does. 

The computed sex ratio for the 328 bucks 
and 325 does listed above is 1 buck to 0.991 doe. 
C. \V. Severinghaus of the New York State Conser- 
vation Department, in a letter dated September 
21, 1951, indicated that the buck-to-doe ratio of 
11,065 fawns, less than 9 months of age, killed 
by non-selective agents in New York was 1:0.960. 

Sex ratio data for the deer trapped on the 
island of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge were 
meager and they were inconsistent from year to 
year; nevertheless, it is thought that they are 



worthy of record, table 9. In the fitst 2 yeais for 
which lecords are available, bucks outnumbered 
does, but in the last three winters the number of 
does caught was considerably greater than the 
number of bucks taken. Perhaps the excessively 
high deer populations in the more recent years 
resulted in pressures which caused more bucks 
than does to leave the island. Observations on 
the Rock River range, table 8, do not indicate 
that the trapping technique, as used there, was 
selective for does. 

Deer fatalities, from the fall of 1948 to the 
spring of 1951, provided some data on the sex 
ratios of deer in widely scattered sections of 
southern Illinois. Of 35 deer that died from a 
variety of causes, but most of them as a result of 
highway accidents, 20 were bucks and 15 were 
does, a 1:0.75 ratio. The losses occurred in 10 
southern Illinois counties, chiefly in and near the 
Shawnee National Forest. It is realized this is a 
small sample for so large an area, and record is 
made of it here largely for addition to such future 
data as may be collected. 

Data on the age ratios of deer were obtained 
in the Rock Rivet tange ftom field obsetvations 
in the summer and fall of 1950; 244 deer were 
seen clearly enough to be classified as to sex 
and age, table 10. The relative length of muzzle 
was used to distinguish fawns from older deer. 

Of the adult and yearling deer, 85 were bucks 
and 83 were does; the buck-to-doe ratio was 
1:0.976. The doe-to-fawn ratio was 1:0.916. 

The aerial census in Decembet, 1950, indi- 
cated a deet population on the Rock Rivet tange 
of 994; thus, the 244 identified deet made up a 
sample of 24.5 pet cent of the estimated total 
population. It was felt that this sample gave an 
accutate index of the doe-to-fawn tatio and sug- 
gested good productivity in this area for 1950. 

Movements 

Seasonal movements of the deer on the Rock 
River range were evident in spring and fall of 



15 



Table 11. - Recovery data, 1948-1951, from 335 tagged deer released in Illinois since about 1947. 
All recoveries were from releases made in southern Illinois. 











Miles From 




Tag No. 


Sex 


Release 
Date 


Recovery 
Date 


Recovery to 
Release Site 


Cause of Death 


28 


■? 


Unknown 


1-15-48 


? 


■> 


75 


M 


2-19-48 


2- 2-49 


98 


Shot 


633,634 


M 


2-19-49 


4-10-49 


6 


Fence 


577,578 


F 


2- 4-49 


4-18-49 


8 


Shot 


510 


F 


2-15-48 


5-15-49 


28 


Car 


599,600 


M 


2- 7-49 


9-29-49 


6 


7 


502 


F 


1-31-48 


11-19-49 


\Vi 


Shot 


303 


IVI 


2-14-49 


5-18-50 


8 


Motorcycle 


625,626 


M 


2-15-49 


11-11-50 


4 


? 


731,732 


IVI 


2-14-51 


2-18-51 


25 


Hurt in 
transit 



the years of this study. During April, in 1950 and 
1951, a moderate shifting outward was noted in 
those herds that wintered in close proximity to 
the Rock River. Small groups or single deer 
appeared in wooded creek bottoms and in large 
upland woodlots as much as 6 or 7 miles from the 
river, in places where none had been present in 
winter. The animals remained in these outlying 
habitats throughout the remainder of the spring 
and summer. In late fall, the spring movement 
was reversed when the adult deer and their off- 
spring moved back to winter ranges along the 
river. This population build-up along the river 
in fall resulted in herds ranging in size up to more 
than 100 individuals. Herds of 15 to 35 were 
common. 

Some information on the movements of deer 
following their release on unfamiliar range was 



obtained. Of 335 tagged deer which have been 
released over the state since about 1947, recovery 
data have been obtained on only 10, table 11. All 
of these recoveries were from releases made in 
southern Illinois counties. Three of these 10 deer 
had been shot. 

It will be noted that the straight line distance 
from the release site to the point where the tag 
was recovered varied from 1.5 to 98 miles; the 
average was 20.5 miles. The buck that migrated 
98 miles had been released almost a year before 
the date of tag recovery. Length of time from 
release of deer to recovery of tag seemed to have 
little bearing on the distance traveled by the deer. 
Four tagged deer recovered more than a year after 
their releases averaged only 10.5 miles; the max- 
imum for these deer was 28 miles and the minimum 
1.5 miles. 



Table 12. - Fatality records for deer in Illinois, 1948-1951. 



Cause 

of 

Fatality 


Fatalities in 

Rock River Range, 

January, 1948-May, 1951 


Fatalities in 

Illinois, Exclusive 

of Rock River Range, 

September, 1948-March, 1951 


Number 


Per Cent 


Number 


Per Cent 


Highway accidents 

Poaching 

Dogs 

Fence entanglements 

Farming operations 

Drowning 

Live trapping 

Trains 

Buck fights 

Malnutrition 

Unknown 

Total 


135 

45 

19 

13 

12 

7 

5 

2 

2 

2 

27 

269 


50.2 
16.7 
7.1 
4.8 
4.5 
2.6 
1.9 
0.7 
0.7 
0.7 
10.1 

100.0 


43 
3 
4 
3 



2 
5 
8 


1 
7 

76 


56.6 
3.95 
5.3 
3.95 
0.0 
2.6 
6.6 

10.5 
0.0 
1.3 
9.2 

100.0 



16 





Fig. 13. — Remains of a deer that showed Fig. 14. — Two bucks on the Rock River range 

signs of having succumbed to a pack of domestic that died after having locked horns in a fight that 
dogs on the Rock River range. took place during the breeding season. 



Mortality 

Recent censuses on the Rock River range 
have pointed to a stable resident deer population 
there. Productivity has been shown to be good; 
no confirmed report of emigration beyond the limits 
of the range has been brought to light. The rel- 
atively stable population on this range has largely 
been a consequence of a mortality that balanced 
the productivity. 

Many data on deer mortality were furnished 
by conservation officers, in particular, Officer 
Paul Beebe of Forreston, who provided most of 
the records for the Rock River range. Other in- 
formation was obtained through direct observation 
in the field and from resident farmers. 

Of the known causes of mortality among deer 
in Illinois, highway accidents were the ones that 
most frequently came to attention, table 12. Ap- 
proximately half of the fatalities recorded were 
attributed to motor vehicles. Deaths recorded as 
resulting from poaching were 15 tim.es as many 
on the Rock River range as elsewhere in the state. 
On this range, high population densities were 
present over a larger area than elsewhere, and 
the deer were more readily accessible to poachers. 
Poaching was undoubtedly a much more frequent 
mortality cause than was indicated by the records. 
Poachers usually took precautions to conceal 
evidence of their activities; therefore, such losses 
frequently went unnoticed. Losses resulting from 
attacks by dogs, fig. 13, were also thought to 



have been higher than indicated by the figures, 
because old evidence of dog kills was not readily 
identified, and cause of death was listed as un- 
known, when any doubt existed. A very small 
loss occurred from antler locking when bucks 
fought during the breeding season, fig. 14. 

Condition of Herds 

During the period of this investigation, the 
condition of the deer throughout Illinois appeared 
excellent, except for those animals inhabiting the 
most heavily populated area on the Rock River 
range and the island of the Horseshoe Lake Game 
Refuge. 

The degree to which food plants have been 
browsed may be used as an indicator of the state 
of balance existing between deer and their food 
supply. If the deei population does not exceed 
its food supply, such marked evidence of close 
feeding as a browse line, at the greatest height 
to which the deer reach when standing on all 
fours, will not be easily discerned on the more 
desirable food plants. 

On the Rock Rivet range, only one small 
area, consisting of the Harry Severson and the 
Hugh Funderburg estates, fig. 12, exhibited from 
the beginning of this study a marked browse line, 
fig. 15, indicative of restricted food resources. 
These adjoining estates, encompassing about 4 
square miles of forest and agricultural range, are 
located about 7 miles southwest of Rockford. 

17 



Although domestic livestock has not been pas- 
tured in the woods or brushland on the area since 
about 1941, palatable trees and shrubs within 
reach of deer have suffered severely from over- 
browsing, figs. 16 and 17. This area has, for 
many years, supported the highest deer concentra- 
tion in northern Illinois. 

Nearly 18 years ago, the late Aide Leopold 
noted the high level of the deer population in the 
Rockford area. In an unpublished report dated 
October 15, 1936, he wrote as follows to Harry D. 
Colman, then owner of the land now known as the 
Funderburg estate: "There are already plenty of 
deer for pleasure purposes: 1 saw 15 and 25 per 






ymx* 




^!^- 




^*'*j| 



i:^ ..,.Mn«««ili<i'.'l^i*l»«i ^j»l,iiyii:ij:. 



Fig. 15. -- Browse line on deciduous 
trees in an area heavily populated by deer of 
the Rock River range. 




day with no effort to keep quiet." He noted that 
"Mr. Severson saw forty deer at onetime two years 
ago." 

Although Leopold considered the deer popu- 
lation very high, he saw no evidence of over- 
browsing of winter food plants. He warned, how- 
ever, that a further increase in the numbers of 
deer would endanger both the range and the herd. 
He based this belief partly on the assumption that 
there was no opportunity for geographic spread. 

Following an inspection about a year later, 
Leopold wrote to Colman in an unpublished report 
dated September 21, 1937, that he experienced 
"the distinct impression that browsing is heavier 




Fig. 16. — Severe deer damage to white 
pine on the Rock River range. 



Fig. 17. - Another example of severe deer damage 
to white pine on the Rock River range. 



18 



than a yeai ago," and he advised that "The Rock- 
ford range shows all the preliminary symptoms of 
impending overpopulation." 

Developments taking place since Leopold's 
surveys reveal that he underestimated the pos- 
sibilities of the deer for expansion into unoccu- 
pied parts of the Rock River range. Nonetheless, 
his foresight concerning deterioration of the range 
near Rockford proved correct. 

Cheatum (1949:19, 22) demonstrated a cor- 
relation between weight loss in deer and fat 
reduction in the marrow of the femur of the an- 
imals; he observed that a serious stage of mal- 
nutrition was indicated when less than 25 per 
cent by fresh weight of the femur marrow was 
composed of fat. He stated that som.e deer have 
been found dead with 20 to 25 per cent fat in their 
femur marrow, and he suggested that death usually 
results when the marrow fat is depleted below 15 
or 20 per cent. 

In an effort to evaluate the extent of mal- 
nutrition among deer on the Severson and Funder- 
burg estates, the author collected marrow from the 
fem.ur bones of six deer found dead in February 
and ^lay of 1950, table 13. The results of fat 
analyses by the Department of Veterinary Pathol- 
ogy and Hygiene at the University of Illinois 
showed that the percentage of fat by weight in 
specimens 1, 2, and 6 was below the minimum 
survival level as indicated by Cheatum (1949:22) 
for most deer. The value found for specimen 6 is 
considered questionable because warm weather 
imm.ediately prior to discovery of the carcass may 
have caused a loss of fat through the porous femur 
bone. These specimens were taken from animals 
that, judged by Cheatum 's criteria, were in an 
advanced stage of malnutrition at the time of 
death; specimen 4 was taken from a deer in a 
serious stage of malnutrition at the time of death. 

Table 13. - Fat analyses of marrow from the 
femurs of deer found dead on the Rock River range, 
Ogle and Winnebago counties, Illinois, winter and 
spring, 1950. 





Date 


Per Cent of 


Specimen 


Carcass 


Fat 


by Weight, 


No. 


Found 


in Marrow 


1 


2-12-50 




9.1 


2 


2-25-50 




13.4 


3 


5-19-50 




43.5 


4 


5-19-50 




23.8 


5 


5-19-50 




49.5 


6 


5-31-50 




8.3 



The proportion of fat remaining in specimens 3 and 
5 indicated that they were taken from deer that 
died from causes other than malnutrition. 

Deer in good physical condition undergo 
pelage changes at rather uniform times of the year. 
In West Virginia, the change from the winter to 
the summer coats normally begins in early March 
and continues into May (De Garmo et aL 1950:63). 
The change to the reddish summer coat is retarded 
in unhealthy deer. It is thought that the normal 
pelage changes on deer in Illinois occur at ap- 
proximately the same times as on deei in West 
Virginia, as weather conditions and latitudes of 
the two states are comparable. On the Severson 
and Funderburg estates, many deer still had 
partial winter coats as late as June 7 in 1950. 
Complete winter pelage was seen on a doe on 
June 15 and on a buck on June 19 of the same 
year. 

The only other Illinois herd known to have 
been in excess of the carrying capacity of its 
environment, while this study was in progress, 
was that on the island of the Horseshoe Lake 
Game Refuge. A browse line was extremely 
obvious on the island, and the reproduction of 
acceptable woody plants was greatly retarded. 
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum . and several species 
of dogwoods, Cornus spp., were eliminated so far 
as availibility to the deer was concerned. The 
sassafras trees that remained were large and 
their branches were far out of reach of the deer. 
In other parts of Alexander County, dogwoods and 
sassafras appeared to be the woody plants most 
sought after by deer. Trumpetcreeper, Campsis 
radicans , which furnished some food for deer on 
the island of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge, 
was browsed less extensively. 

In the spring of 1950, eight dead deer were 
found on the island of the Horseshoe Lake Game 
Refuge. Marrow from the femur bones was col- 
lected from two of the animals; advanced decom- 
position had destroyed the marrow in the other 
six. Judged by the tooth developm.ent and wear 
criteria of Severinghaus (1949), one of the deer 
from which marrow was collected had reached old 
age, which presumably contributed to its death. 
Analyses of the collected samples revealed 29.6 
^er cent fat by weight for the old animal and 14.2 
per cent for the other. Malnutrition was indicated 
as contributing to the death of the younger animal. 

On June 22, 1950, a large number of deer on 
the island of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge 



19 



weie observed to be in winter pelage, which, at 
such a late date, is recognized as an indication 
of poor physical condition. 

Latham (1950:22) found that the average body 
weight of Pennsylvania deer "has been retrogres- 
sing steadily for the past 20 or 30 years." This 
process occurred as the quantity of available deer 
food declined and its quality deteriorated. 

The inaccuracies and shortcomings inherent 
in an attempt to judge the relative size of deer in 
the field are admitted. Nevertheless, with respect 
to the size of deer seen, it seems worthy of noting 
the opinion registered by the persons who were 
involved in the April 22, 1950, deer drive on the 
island of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge. 
These persons, 19 college students and 2 supervi- 
sors, William D. Carter, the project's assistant at 
the time, and Dr. Willard D. Klimstra, Southern 
Illinois University zoologist, had an excellent 
opportunity to observe the 168 deer that passed 
through the driving line, because no two adjacent 
drivers were ever more than 50 yards apart and 
the cover was relatively open. The observation 
that a considerable number of "very small deer" 
had passed through the driving line was unan- 
imous at the conclusion of the drive. 

Management 

The increasing numbers of white-tailed deer 
in Illinois have brought about problems requiring 
management in areas where deer are unwanted or 
are in excess of the carrying capacity of the land. 

In an attempt to relieve an impending food 
shortage on the Severson and Funderburg estates, 
the late Paul B. Riis, in 1940, planned an extensive 
planting program under the direction of the late 
Aldo Leopold. About 9,000 conifers, 37,500 
hardwoods, 10,090 shrubs, and 284 pounds of tree 
and shrub seeds were to be planted. Just how 
completely these plans were carried out is not 
known; however, William I. Boetcher, who farmed, 
and still farms, parts of both estates, attested 
that a considerable amount of planting was done 
and that the plants survived "several years." He 
contended that excessive deer browsing was 
chiefly responsible for the failure of the planting; 
however, he indicated that some of the plants 
were plowed up. 

Live trapping, attempted as a means of 
relieving overpopulation, reduced the deer popu- 
lation by about 439 head in 11 years on the island 
of the Horseshoe Lake Game Refuge and by 158 



head in 5 years on the Rock River range. Con- 
tinued high deer populations on both areas pro- 
vided evidence that the trapping program did not 
constitute a satisfactory solution. It had the 
disadvantage of being costly. However, it tended 
to satisfy landowners that some effort was being 
made to resolve their deer problems. 

The use of deer repellents offers a possible 
means of reducing the amount of damage done by 
deer to field and garden crops. Many different 
kinds of deer repellents have been tried by a 
number of workers in recent years with varying 
degrees of success. Two well-known brands were 
given summer and winter tests on the Severson 
and Funderburg estates. 

In the summer of 1949, three applications of 
Good-rite z.i.p. were applied to a one-tenth acre 
plot of field corn, and three applications of Di- 
amond "L" Brand Deer-Repellent were applied to 
a similar plot. One application was made when 
the corn was 2 feet high, one when it was 4 feet 
high, and one when it was in the milk. Deer were 
repelled from the com sprayed with the repellents, 
but only until new growth appeared. 

Because it was noted that deer damaged corn 
in the outside rows first, and then proceeded to 
the inside of each field, a new experiment was 
set up in the summer of 1950. When the corn was 
about 3 feet high, the four outside rows of a 
30-acre cornfield were sprayed with Good-rite z.i.p. 
Damage ceased along these rows, but it was 
evident on the corn deeper in the field. 

These experiments indicate that, to give a 
plot of growing corn adequate protection from deer, 
more than three applications of the repellent must 
be made, the applications must be made throughout 
the growing season, and they must be applied to 
all of the plants. A large amount of spray com- 
pound must be used, special equipment must be 
used to apply it, and considerable labor must be 
involved. Therefore, it is thought that the appli- 
cation of repellents such as those tested is an 
impractical way of reducing deer damage to grow- 
ing corn. 

Another experiment carried on in February, 
1950, showed how little effect these repellents 
had in preventing deer use of a preferred winter 
food. Eight piles of slash of basswood, Tilia 
americana, were set out in a deer concentration 
area in Winnebago County on February 23. Three 
piles were sprayed with Good-rite z.i.p., three 
with Diamond "L" Brand Deer-Repellent, and two 
were left as controls. On examination of the 



20 



piles 5 days latei, all exhibited severe browsing this area. A rifle season would be dangerous to 

by deer. the human population. 

The future holds several knotty problems in In the southern part of the state it seems 

managing the deer herds in Illinois. Should deer likely that an increasing number of nuisance 

be harvested on the Rock River range? It has been problems will arise as a result of the increasing 

seen that this herd has stabilized, and that exces- deer numbers there. It would seem that, after the 

sive damage to crops and trees has occurred on population reaches a certain point, a wise use 

parts of the range. A bow and arrow, or possibly policy for the area would involve some kind of 

a shotgun, season on deer might be considered for deer cropping system. 

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1848. A true picture of emigration: or fourteen years in the interior of North America; being a full 
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1949. Bone marrow as an index of malnutrition in deer. N. Y. State Conservationist 3(5): 19-22. 
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1919. The era of the Civil War, 1848-1870. Centennial History of Illinois, 3. Illinois Centennial 
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1912. The mammals oflllinois and Wisconsin. Field Mus. Nat. Hist. (Pub. 153) Zool. Ser. 11. 505 pp. 
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Gerhard, Fred. 

1857. Illinois as it is; its history, geography, statistics, constitution, laws, government, finances, 
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1838. Illinois and the West. Weeks, Jordan and Company, Boston, and W. Marshall and Company. 
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1931. Report on a game survey of the North Central states. Sporting Arms and Ammunition 
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1953. Iowa's early deer story. Iowa Conservationist 12(1): 101. 

21 



O'Roke, E. C, and F. N. Hamerstrom, Jr. 

1948. Productivity and yield of the George Reserve deer herd. Jour. Wildlife Mgt. 12(l):78-86. 
Purple, N. H. 

1856. A compilation of the statutes of the State of Illinois of a general nature, in force January 1, 
1856, collated with reference to decisions of the Supreme Court of said State, and to prior 
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1937. Mammals of Iowa. Iowa State Col. Jour. Sci. 12(l):43-97. 
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Swears, Clayton C. 

1948. There are deer in Illinois. 111. Wildlife 3(4): 12-6. 
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1946. A history of Wisconsin deer. Wis. Cons. Dept. Pub. 323. 96 pp. 
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22 




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