Jekyll starts to analyze deer herd
The Brunswick News
August 07, 2012

Almost a year after the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said Jekyll Island has too many deer and some of them may be unhealthy, managers of the state park are taking the first steps toward figuring out what to do about it.

They hope that by evaluating a small sample of deer, they will gain a better understanding of the overall health of the entire population and how individual deer are impacted, said Ben Carswell, Jekyll Island Authority director of conservation. The study is taking place in conjunction with the DNR and Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at no cost to the authority that operates the island park.

In November, a DNR study concluded that an estimated population of 700 deer -- or one for every eight acres -- was more than the island could sustain and could lead to illnesses. It recommended allowing bow hunting to reduce the number of animals on the island.

Authority officials said the study alone did not warrant population control, and they wanted more research before turning to control measures.

Now, the authority is taking an in-depth look at the health of the island's deer, watching for internal conditions, parasites and other negative effects that overpopulation could have on the animals.

Six deer were killed Wednesday and Thursday nights for necropsies, or autopsies on animals. "They were shot by sharpshooters, people who are trained with high-power rifles to shoot an animal in a way that it will die quickly," Carswell said.

Results aren't expected until winter and should provide a comprehensive report on the disease, blood, and internal and external parasite conditions of the sampled deer, Carswell said.

The study also will identify species of ticks on the deer and diseases that potentially could be spread by the ticks.

Another DNR deer population assessment is expected to be done later this year, before any population-control measures are considered. The study will use cameras to give researchers a better understanding of the island's deer population.