Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): David S. deCalesta
    Date: 2013
    Source: Human-Wildlife Interactions. 7(1): 60-68.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Northern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (479.96 KB)


    This study provides hitherto unavailable methodology for reliably and precisely estimating deer density within forested landscapes, enabling quantitative rather than qualitative deer management. Reliability and precision of the deer pellet-group technique were evaluated in 1 small and 2 large forested landscapes. Density estimates, adjusted to reflect deer harvest and overwinter mortality, were compared with a drive count on the small landscape and with aerial counts using forward-looking infrared videography (FLIR) on the large landscapes. Estimates by 2 expert and 2 novice counters (range = 17.6 to 18.6 deer/km2) on the small landscape were not different from each other and three of the four were not different from the drive count (17.4 deer/km2). FLIR density estimates were approximately 30% lower than pellet-group estimates on the large landscapes (P < 0.04), an expected result. Precision on the small landscape was high; 95% confidence intervals for individual counters were <7.5% of mean estimates of density, and coefficients of variability were <10%. Precision on the larger landscapes was acceptable: 95% confidence intervals were 18.4 to 30.4% of mean estimates and coefficients of variability were <25%. The pellet-group technique produces reliable and precise estimates of deer density, is inexpensive, requires little training to implement, and is best suited to northern hardwood forests where snow and cold result in minimal deterioration of pellet groups. Unless corrected for hunter harvest and overwinter mortality, pellet-group counts represent average overwinter density and overestimate spring density.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    deCalesta, David S. 2013. Reliability and precision of pellet-group counts for estimating landscape-level deer density. Human-Wildlife Interactions. 7(1): 60-68.


    density estimates, human-wildlife conflicts, Odocoileus virginianus, pellet-group technique, white-tailed deer

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page