Jekyll deer problem grows larger

The Brunswick News

3/20/2013
By NIKKI WILEY

A new study has determined that the number of deer on Jekyll Island is far greater than what was estimated two years ago and that some of the animals have health problems because of overpopulation.

The survey conducted this past fall by Jekyll Island staff, in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, examined the health of six deer and found one animal to be in poor physical condition, three in fair condition and two in good condition, said Ben Carswell, director of conservation for the Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the island state park.

"We did find some indicators that the health of the animals, at least some of them, is being impacted by the high population density," Carswell said. "That's not a surprise for the density that we're estimating."

The authority's study comes nearly a year and a half after a DNR study concluded Jekyll's deer population was too high and was suffering health problems. The original state study in 2011 put the number of deer on the island at about 80 per square mile.

The new Jekyll Island Authority study estimates there are 85 to 196 deer per square mile on the island.

"That is quite a high number for deer population by comparison to most other areas," Carswell said, adding that fawns made up most of the growth.

Carswell says some deer are experiencing health problems because of overpopulation, but he's not ready to implement population control measures.

While state researchers had recommended opening the island to bow hunting to control the population, Jekyll Island officials sidestepped the advice, saying they wanted to study the issue further before implementing controls.

Other factors need to be considered, Carswell said, such as how people affect the size of the herds.

Carswell hopes to conduct a study on the impact deer have on island vegetation before making a recommendation on what to do about the population. He estimated that study would take one to two years.

"At this time, I'm not recommending that we consider moving forward with any sort of population control for deer, even though we do know that, by really any standard, we're at a very high population density, and it's high enough that it is showing indicators in the health of the animals," Carswell said.

* Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at nwiley@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.