Penn State’s Deer Research Center studies herd health options

Penn State’s Deer Research Center studies herd health options


A unique wildlife habitat and educational facility, Penn State’s Deer Research Center. That’s right now, In Motion. Deer research began at Penn State in the 1920s with early studies focusing on the nutritional value of various plant species found in the wilds of Pennsylvania. From that initial investigation, Forest Management programs found ways to supply natural habitats with more beneficial plant life for deer herds. Throughout the years, a variety of research initiatives have focused on improvements in nutrition as well as studies in buck and doe growth, healthy reproduction cycles, and humane repellants and fencing to protect forest regeneration. This facility started in 1972, it was built with a grant from the Mellon estate, and a lot of the early research they did here was in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, a lot of the early work focused on nutrition. Current research at the facility includes a collaborative effort with the National Wildlife Research Center at Fort Collins, Colorado. This study focuses on the overpopulation of deer herds in more urban areas and the potential dangers to deer, farns, crops, and humans, that this migration can generate. As hunters, we can control the deer herd in the wild. When we get to areas where hunters don’t have access there’s no way of controlling those doe populations. Deer are very adaptable, so they can adapt to surviving around a lot of human activity, and also from urban sprawl, where, basically, the humans are taking away the deer’s habitat. The deer are adapting. They’re adapting to those environments. There’s the automobile collision, there’s a threat there, the life of the humans, really, by having too many deer, with automobile collisions, etcetera. We’ve tested a number of different vaccines here for the USDA, and we’ve come up with some that work really well and one particular drug was just approved in the past February by the EPA for use on white-tailed deer. And, basically, we need to control these populations in the urban areas, in the parks. High fenced military installations, federal facilities. We need to get in there and control these populations before disease or starvation takes care of the population. Results show that the vaccines developed had no negative effects on the does and remain operative for two or three breeding seasons. Although not considered by experts to be the singular solution to urban deer expansion, a Penn State study has shown that it is a humane choice that can be used in conjunction with other initiatives in urban herd management. We did not see any negative impacts from the vaccine, the does that are on the contraceptive treatment were actually some of the healthier does we have in the herd, they don’t go through the normal stress of having to nurse and rear a fawn every year, and basically, the overall health of those animals is really good. While offering support to wildlife agencies state-wide, Penn State’s Deer Research Facility also provides numerous hands-on opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at Penn State as they prepare for careers in wildlife management, biology, animal science, and veterinary medicine. Throughout the day-to-day responsibilities, the most important mission? The overall health and vitality of the herd. We actually do two herd checks a day, so every animal here we look at least twice a day. The animals are fed and watered every day, we vaccinate the animals twice a year and we maintain individual health records on all the animals. Deer in the wild, you just don’t have access to them. Here, you have access to the deer, you can weigh them, you can age them, you can see the growth patterns, you can see what genetics does, what food nutrition does, it just helps the game commission and other wildlife agencies do all they can to benefit their white tail deer resource that we have here in Pennsylvania. For In Motion, I’m Curt Parker.

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