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Deer Management Plan

Problem Definition

Miami University Natural Areas (MUNA) was designated by President Paul Pearson in 1992 “to be preserved and protected for approved uses in education, research, recreation, and observation” “in perpetuity.” Regarding this decision, he was “confident 100 years from now [it] will be regarded as one of the most important events to occur in Oxford’s history.” Indeed, the MUNA system is one of the attractive features of the campus and is used in recruitment, research, and recreation. However, the ecological integrity, biological diversity, and beauty of MUNA have been degraded, and are further threatened, by invasive species (e.g. Emerald Ash Borer, Amur honeysuckle) and overabundant white-tailed deer. In the near future the MUNA Committee will develop a comprehensive management plan to restore ecological integrity, so that future generations of students will be able to enjoy the same benefits that past generations have. However, the overabundance of deer is an acute and increasing threat to tree and wildflower regeneration in MUNA forests, requiring a more rapid response.


Management to reduce deer density in MUNA is expected to benefit:

  • Biological diversity in MUNA--Once population goals are met, we expect to see an increase in wildflower abundance and young tree populations.
  • The beauty and cost of campus grounds, trees, and floral plantings—Deer rubbing and browsing on trees and other horticultural plantings currently increases the cost and decreases the beauty of campus grounds management. Memorial and other newly planted trees are frequently unsuccessful due to deer impacts.
  • Deer-vehicle collisions and related insurance and infrastructure costs will be reduced.
  • Forest health—Healthy forests are characterized by new tree growth and provide ecosystem services such as soil stability and flood management. Because trees have such a long lifespan, the negative consequences of losing young trees to deer browsing may take decades to become apparent but will have high costs when the mature trees eventually die.


Current deer density degrades biological diversity, ecosystem functions and beauty of MUNA while increasing campus costs. Evidence on deer abundance and deer impacts in MUNA is included in ‘Deer management in Miami University Natural Areas,’ a document posted on the Natural Areas website on April 6, 2022. That document links to supplemental information on deer impacts and management plans.


An ad-hoc committee has been studying issues related to deer management since May 2021, both deer impacts and potential risks and objections. We have explored how this issue has been addressed by other colleges (including Binghamton and Swarthmore) and by communities, land management agencies, and park systems. A review of management options is provided by DeNicola et al. (2000). The negative impacts of overabundant deer, and the case for management, are widely recognized. We propose to reduce deer populations by controlled bow-hunting, similar to the deer management programs of the City of Oxford, Hamilton County Great Parks and Cincinnati Parks, which initiated controlled deer hunting in 2009, 2003, and 2007, respectively. The documents listed below describe their programs and are linked to the Deer Management page.

  • Oxford Deer Management Summary 2020-2021
  • Controlled Bow Hunting Program Rules and Regulations, Great Parks of Hamilton County, Sept. 2020
  • 2021–2026 Deer Management Plan, Cincinnati Parks

On Dec. 6, 2021, the Natural Areas Committee distributed a draft deer management to Miami administrators and general counsel. In March 2022 the chair of this committee was notified that the committee could continue further elaboration of this plan. On April 5 and 11, 2022, the chair made presentations to Oxford City Council and Oxford Township Trustees advising them of our plans to pursue deer management in MUNA. The draft management plan was framed as a list of proposed actions to manage deer on MUNA, and posted on the Natural Areas website on April 14, 2022.

A public meeting on the Zoom platform, hosted by the Hefner Museum of Natural History, was held on May 5. This meeting was listed on the Miami University Events Calendar, featured on Miami Matters, and posted to various email lists and social media accounts. Additionally, posters advertising the meeting, with a QR code to register, were distributed at the April 16 Earthfest and posted in Oxford and on campus. Letters outlining the intention to manage deer in MUNA with invitations to the May 5 meeting were sent to all c. 70 individuals that own property bordering MUNA or the Ecology Research Center, the Myaamia Center, leaders of student organizations (Environmental Stewards of Miami University, EcoReps, Miami University Green Team, Miami University Botanical Society), and faculty affiliates of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability.

A summary of May 5 the meeting, including feedback and input from participants, is attached. The chair also received a response from Daryl Baldwin, Director of the Myaamia Center, following his consultation with center staff and the Miami tribe’s Cultural Resources Office. They are supportive of our proposed actions but sought assurance that the venison would be used. In addition, they would like some hides and heads for an activity involving tanning hides.

The chair presented the draft plan at the May 9, 2022 meeting of the Miami Valley Audubon Society. Attendees were generally supportive of the plan. A couple individuals were concerned that some deer might be injured rather than killed, and in response we have added an accuracy test for archers. Some other individuals also contacted the chair or other members of the committee, also expressing support for the draft plan.

Based on input and further deliberation, the Natural Areas Committee has slightly modified the deer management plan, as follows:


  • Long-term sustainability of MUNA forests, tree regeneration; diversity of trees in future.
  • Increase in abundance of wildflowers, tree seedlings, and other species.
  • Decrease in negative impacts on campus formal plantings.


  • Number of antlered and non-antlered deer taken each year at each site.
  • Deer density estimated annually by fecal pellet counts.
  • Density, diversity, and growth of tree seedlings assessed annually.

Time frame

  • Begin in selected sites winter 2022-2023. Selected sites are Women’s Recreation Association (WRA), the eastern part of the Bachelor Preserve, Reinhart Preserve, the portion of Western Woods south of Collins Run (adjacent to City land where bow hunting is allowed), and the Ecology Research Center. Figure 1 outlines these sites.
  • Continue in these sites, and expand to more Natural Areas, in subsequent years.
  • Re-evaluate after 4 years.


  • Operational costs would be minimal, and would involve warning signs.
  • Administrative costs would involve some fractional time of Natural Areas Manager to enroll hunters, communicate with them, etc.).
  • Some entities reimburse hunters for costs of permit.


Management practices

  • Hunters will be approved by the Natural Areas Manager in consultation with the chair of the Natural Areas Committee. Selected hunters receive written authorization for marked locations only. Hunting is permitted only within these marked areas. It is the responsibility of each hunter to know the Natural Area boundaries and stay within them.
  • White-tailed deer are the only animal that will be permitted for hunting.
  • Hunters need to comply with State of Ohio archery regulations and pass the written portion of the Ohio Hunter Education course.
  • Equipment must comply with Ohio archery equipment requirements.
  • Hunters will need to pass an accuracy test prior to enrollment in the program, which will be administered by the Natural Areas Manager. Potential hunters must hit a paper plate target with a minimum of 4/5 arrows from a tree stand (or comparable elevated position) at 20 yards. We anticipate that this reasonably approximates hunting conditions in the MUNA. Applicants may practice at the test site prior to scoring but the test will only be administered once per year per applicant.
  • Approved hunters will only hunt with archery equipment from tree stands, so that arrows missing target go into ground. Hunters must wear safety harness when in a tree or tree stand. Hunters cannot use steps that will damage tree, and must remove steps to tree stands and loosen straps when not in use.
  • Designate tree stand locations which are not near trails and not near property boundaries; mark stands.
  • Require hunters to remove stands at end of season.
  • Require hunters to remove carcasses and report kills to MUNA manager as well as to state deer check station (or online or over phone, as per current state rules). Allow hunters to remove carcasses by non-motorized cart with tarp cover. Information to be supplied to manager: location of kill, deer’s sex and age (adult or yearling), date, and state tag number.
  • All hunting activities will be conducted during the Ohio archery season, and will otherwise comply with all regulations and guidelines established or managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Restrict hunting to periods when trail use is minimal: mid-November to early February.
  • Hunting only permitting 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Each hunter notifies Natural Areas Manager (Ecology Research Center station manager for ERC) at least one day before s/he intends to hunt; Manager then informs Miami Police Dispatch.
  • Require that all hunters strictly abide by the bag limit and tagging procedures established or managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The program will encourage hunters to take only anterless deer (does). Note bag limit for Butler County has been 3 deer (maximum 1 antlered). If subsequent assessment indicates greater take is needed, this may require a damage control permit from State.
  • Allow approved hunters to coordinate sharing use of a stand to encourage continuous stand occupancy throughout the designated season.
  • Hunter who field dress the carcass must leave entrails at least 50 feet from any trail or stream
  • Each applicant will indicate whether s/he will use the meat. If not, the hunter is expected to either donate the meat to a charitable organization or donate the carcass to the Myaamia Center. (The Myaamia Center will take up to three deer and up to six additional hides and skulls; in these cases hunters will contact the Myaamia Center directly.)

Public safety concerns and liability concerns

  • Each hunter completes and signs the standard Ohio ‘Permission to Enter Private Land for Recreational Activities’ form By signing this form, and according to the Ohio Recreational Users Statute, Miami University has no responsibility for, nor incurs liability for any injury or property loss caused by the acts of a hunter.
  • Post signage warning about hunting. A sign will be posted at each trailhead that is close to a stand location, indicating months and hours when archery hunting may be occurring, and specifying that dogs are not permitted and users must stay on trails.
  • The Natural Areas manager will advise Miami University Police and local police jurisdictions of hunting activity.
  • Permission letter from MUNA manager and ID must be carried by hunter when engaged in hunting activities. Hunters must use blaze orange when hunting.
  • Miami University is not responsible for any equipment left unattended.

Community relations

  • Owners of adjacent properties will be contacted.
  • If a deer is wounded and moves off the Natural Areas, the hunter must contact the adjoining property owner before attempting to locate the wounded deer.

Communicating plan

  • This revised plan will be posted on the Natural Areas website. Once the plan is approved by the university administration, it will be sent to the university News and Communications office for dissemination. It will also be sent to Oxford City Council and City Manager and to Oxford Township Trustees. Letters will be sent to owners of adjoining properties with either the plan or the link to the plan.

Evaluation and Adaptation

On an annual basis, the Natural Areas Committee will review feedback from hunters and other stakeholders, assess monitored parameters (deer taken, deer density, tree seedling density, diversity, and growth), and make adjustments to the plan, including possibly adding or changing hunting areas, if deemed appropriate. After four years, the Natural Areas Committee will assess whether to continue or modify the plan.

Figure 1. Map of the Miami University Natural Areas, plus the Ecology Research Center (ERC) with hatched blocks indicating areas where deer management sites would be selected during the first year: WRA, Reinhart Preserve, eastern Bachelor Preserve, Western Woods south of Collins Run, and ERC.

Miami University Natural Areas Map, as described above