Washington State Deer Management Plan: White-tailed Deer


Published: November 30, 2010

Pages: 102

Author(s): Dana Base, Tom Owens, Woody Myers, Kevin Robinette, Scott McCorquodale, Pat Fowler, Paul Wik, Rich Finger, Brock Hoenes, Mike Livingston, Howard Ferguson, Mike Atamian, Jeff Heinlen, Rena Henson, and Jerry Nelson

Executive Summary

White-tailed deer in eastern Washington represent an important resource that provides substantial recreational, aesthetic, cultural, and economic benefit to Washington citizens and the Native American people of the area.

The purpose of this plan is to prescribe near-term direction for managing white-tailed deer. This is a five-year plan subject to amendment and is scheduled to be updated every five-years. This plan will serve as a valuable reference document and management guideline for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, tribes, agency cooperators, landowners and the general public. Priority management activities will be carried out as funding and resources become available.

The major goals of this white-tailed deer management plan are to:

  • Maintain and sustain white-tailed deer populations using sound, objective science to inform decision-making.
  • Provide stable, regulated recreational deer hunting opportunity to all citizens.
  • Manage white-tailed deer populations within the limits of suitable habitat.

White-tailed deer were found in abundance in the foothills and valleys of the Northwest by Euro- American explorers and trappers in the early 1800s. Presumably this species occurred in varying numbers, depending on annual climatic and habitat conditions, within the broader valley bottoms along the major river courses and at low elevation forest edges. Disturbance in forest stands created by fire, disease, and insect outbreaks typically enhanced habitat conditions for white-tailed deer.

Like other big game species, deer were used by both native tribes and Euro-American settlers and were generally subject to year-round subsistence hunting. As farming, logging, and other land uses changed the landscape, favorable habitat conditions for white-tailed deer were likely created on a broader scale. Newly created habitat coupled with stricter hunting regulations and widespread reduction of large predators at the end of the 19th century, facilitated a substantial resurgence in both white-tailed deer numbers and reoccupation of historical deer range.

From 2001 through 2008 white-tailed deer comprised approximately 35% of the annual hunter harvest of all deer in Washington including black-tailed and mule deer. Each year an average of 13,629 white-tailed deer were taken out of a statewide, average, annual harvest of 40,025 deer.

For the purpose of this plan the range of white-tailed deer within Washington State has been divided into six geographic zones based upon ecological and population characteristics as well as management considerations. The six zones include the following: Selkirk, Palouse, Blue Mountains, Columbia Basin, Okanogan Highlands, and North Cascades.

Specific management objectives are provided in categories relative to white-tailed deer habitat, populations, harvest management, mortality factors, and co-existence with people along with background information and strategies for addressing the objectives. They reflect key management issues and specific problems of white-tailed deer management.

Likewise, specific research objectives are identified for addressing information needs relative to white-tailed deer. Research objectives for population estimation, gathering vital rates, delineating movements and resource selection, and managing harvest are presented along with background information and strategies for addressing them.

Priorities for financial investment to implement the Washington White-tailed Deer Management Plan are divided into discrete objectives. These include high and medium priority objectives within categories of habitat and access, population and harvest management, research and management assessment, human and white-tailed deer conflicts, predation, and deer diseases.

Spending levels associated with this plan will be contingent upon availability of funds and creation of partnerships. The recommended prioritized expenditures for white-tailed deer are as follows:

Priority Expenditures Current Annual Expenditures First Year Needs Estimate Five Year Needs Estimate
1. Habitat and Access $20,000 $110,000 $550,000
2. Population and Harvest Management $162,000 $162,000 $810,000
3. Research and Management Assessment $20,000 $280,000 $1,400,000
4. Human and White-tailed Deer Conflicts* $38,000 $78,000 $390,000
5. Deer Diseases $50,000 $50,000 $250,000
TOTAL: $290,000 $680,000 $3,400,000

* Represents both deer and elk wildlife conflict expenditures for Region 1.

Suggested citation

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2010. Washington State Deer Management Plan: Whitetailed Deer. Wildlife Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 124 pp.

Draft documents

Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.