Overabundance of Black-Tailed Deer in Urbanized Coastal California

Brett J. Furnas, Russ H. Landers, Rhonda G. Paiste, Benjamin N. Sacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Abundance of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in western North America is often considered lower than desirable for hunting. Some coastal populations of Columbian black-tailed deer (O. h. columbianus) in California, USA, near urban development, however, are perceived as a nuisance and may be overabundant. To determine the density of a potential nuisance population in Marin County, California, we used a combination of fecal DNA surveys, camera stations, and 2 sources of ancillary data on wildlife observations. We estimated an average density of 18.3 deer/km2 (90% CI = 15.8–20.7) throughout Marin County during late summer and early fall, 2015 and 2016. Within the county, areas with intermediate human density (885 people/km2, 90% CI = 125–1,646) were associated with the highest deer densities (25–44/km2). Our estimate of average deer density was 1.7–6.1 times higher than published density estimates for deer from elsewhere in California and on the low end of densities reported for mule and white-tailed (O. virginianus) deer in regions where they routinely cause a nuisance to humans. High black-tailed deer densities in Marin County may be partially attributed to a paucity of large predators, but more investigation is warranted to evaluate the effects of a recent increase in coyotes (Canis latrans) on the deer population. Analyses of highway road kill rates and citizen science surveys suggest that the deer population in Marin County has been stable over the past 10 years. Our results demonstrate how robust estimation of deer density can inform human–wildlife conflict issues, not just managed hunting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • cameras
  • citizen science
  • coyote
  • fecal DNA
  • human–wildlife conflict
  • N-mixture modeling
  • spatial capture–recapture
  • suburban development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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