White-tailed Deer Management in Ontario

Why Manage Deer?


White-tailed deer are an integral part of Ontario's biodiversity. Deer are a very important part of their ecosystems, as their browsing influences the development of the forest; and they are a significant food source for large predators and many scavengers.


White-tailed deer are important to people as well – whether it's to see one in the wild, for food or hides, or just to know they are there. Hunters from across Ontario and North America seek them every fall. Hunting and viewing deer generates millions of dollars in economic activity within Ontario each year.


White-tailed deer management is important to ensure a healthy deer population for all these reasons.


Factors That Affect Deer


Many factors affect white-tailed deer populations by influencing the number of deer born, the number of deer that die, and to a lesser extent, the number of deer moving in and out of an area. The importance of these factors varies over time from place to place, and some of these factors can be managed more readily than others.


Deer Management Factors Affecting Deer Populations


White-tailed Deer Management in Ontario

The goal of Ontario's white-tailed deer management program is to ensure sustainable white-tailed deer populations and the ecosystems on which they rely, for the continuous provision of ecological, cultural, economic and social benefits for the people of Ontario. To achieve this goal, both populations and habitat are managed using an ecological approach to consider all factors affecting deer.

Ontario has a number of policies and guidelines in place to help achieve this goal over the short and long-term.

Cervid Ecological Framework (PDF, 518 kb)
Executive Summary (PDF, 19 kb)

Strategy for Preventing and Managing Human-Deer Conflicts in Southern Ontario  (PDF, 570 kb)
For more information, visit: MNR's Living with Wildlife webpage

Ontario Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance and Response Plan  (PDF, 730 kb)
For more information, visit: MNR's Chronic Wasting Disease webpage

Ontario Deer Removal Authorization Policy  (PDF, 65 kb)


The flow chart below outlines the main aspects of deer management in Ontario.


White-tailed Deer Management Objectives and Actions




Human and White-tailed Deer Conflicts


Preventing and managing conflicts between humans and white-tailed deer is a topic of considerable interest for some people in Ontario. Human-deer conflicts occur when there is some type of social, economic or ecological impact to humans as a result of white-tailed deer (e.g., agricultural crop damage, vehicle collisions, airport safety hazards, etc). Human-deer conflicts generally increase as deer populations grow in number, therefore it is an important consideration for white-tailed deer management.


To learn more about preventing and managing human-deer conflicts, visit the Living with Wildlife webpage


White-tailed Deer Hunting in Ontario


Hunting is an important component of white-tailed deer management. Deer are a popular species for hunting in Ontario and are abundant throughout most of their range. More information on white-tailed deer hunting in Ontario (including seasons, firearms, annual quotas, special restrictions and conditions) can be found through links at ontario.ca/hunting.


Ontario uses a selective harvest system to manage and allocate the deer harvest in each WMU across the province. This system helps control the harvest of the breeding and recruitment components of the population (i.e., does and fawns) to ensure long-term population sustainability.


Allowable deer harvest levels for WMUs are calculated by considering past harvest levels from the results of annual provincial surveys and by monitoring trend indicators such as deer-vehicle collisions, human-deer conflicts, the capability/quality of the land/habitat to provide for deer, and the effects of severe winter conditions on deer survival.


Ontario also uses "additional deer seals" and "controlled deer hunts" to help meet specific deer management or hunter management objectives in some areas of the province. For more information on harvest regulations, please see the Ontario Hunting Regulations Summary.   



Estimates of Resident Deer Hunting Activity and Harvest in Ontario

YEAR Estimated # of Active Hunters Estimated Antlered Harvest Estimated Antlerless Harvest Estimated Total Harvest
 2008 197,212 37,908 37,994 75,902
 2009 199,581 32,833 31,295 64,128
 2010 193,097 32,664 30,130 62,794
 2011 192,465 35,354 30,776 66,130
 2012 194,007 39,184 31,841 71,025


Note: Numbers are estimates based on replies received from a sample of hunters and are subject to statistical error. Harvest numbers have been rounded to the nearest whole number.  The estimate of the number of active hunters may vary from other reported values (e.g., total licence sales) as some hunters may hunt in more than one WMU, while others may have purchased a licence but decided not to hunt.


More detailed information for estimated white-tailed deer hunter activity and harvest for each Wildlife Management Unit can be found in this document: Estimated Resident Deer Hunting Activity and Harvest by Wildlife Management Unit (2008-2011). (PDF, 187 kb)


• The white-tailed deer are the smallest member of the deer family native to Ontario. This deer family also includes moose, elk and woodland caribou.