Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Wildlife Biology

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Paul R. Krausman

Commitee Members

Ragan Callaway, Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Animal Studies | Environmental Studies | Leisure Studies | Population Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Obtaining reliable knowledge is the first step towards properly managing wildlife species. Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) on Whidbey Island, Washington have not been the subject of study, and little is known about the population, or the opinion of resident’s of Whidbey Island towards the deer population. However, wildlife managers suggest deer on the island may be overabundant or over social carrying capacity. Given the lack of empirical knowledge about the deer population or human opinions towards deer on Whidbey Island, I designed research to determine the abundance and density of Columbian black-tailed deer on Whidbey Island, and the opinions of Whidbey Island residents and deer hunters towards deer. I used road-based spotlight sampling analyzed with distance analysis to estimate the abundance and density. The population of deer on Whidbey Island is estimated to be 2,744.5 deer (6.2 deer/km2). The density of deer varied regionally from 4 deer/km2 in the south, to 10.5 deer/km2 in the central section. To determine public opinion of the deer population, I designed a mail-back survey focused on the respondent’s interactions with deer, their perception of the acceptability of the deer population size and their level of support for increasing hunting opportunity on the island. I also conducted a phone survey of hunters who reported hunting deer on Whidbey Island to determine their opinions on the deer population size and trend. The public opinion survey indicated the deer population across the island was moderately acceptable, and there was some support for increasing hunting, but the predominant concern was maintaining public safety with increased hunting. The hunter survey indicated the deer population across the island was somewhat increasing and hunters would prefer the population to remain stable. The public and hunter opinion surveys did not indicate perception among respondents of the varying deer densities across Whidbey Island. Road-based spotlight sampling analyzed in a distance analysis framework can be useful for estimating population size and density of Columbian black-tailed deer and represents the first population estimates for Columbian black-tailed deer on Whidbey Island.



© Copyright 2015 Robert P. Wingard