We applied mark-resight and area-conversion methods to estimate deer abundance at a 2,862-ha area in and surrounding the Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site during 1987-1991. One observer in each of 11 compartments counted marked and unmarked deer during 65-75 minutes at dusk during 3 counts in each of April and November. Use of radio-collars and vinyl collars provided a complete inventory of marked deer in the population prior to the counts. We sighted 54% of the marked deer during April 1987 and 1988, and 43% of the marked deer during November 1987 and 1988. Mean number of deer counted increased from 427 in April 1987 to 582 in April 1991, and increased from 467 in November 1987 to 662 in November 1990. Herd size during April, based on the mark-resight method, increased from approximately 700-1,400 from 1987-1991, whereas the estimates for November indicated an increase from 983 for 1987 to 1,592 for 1990. Given the large proportion of open area and the extensive road system throughout the study area, we concluded that the sighting probability for marked and unmarked deer was fairly similar. We believe that the mark-resight method was better suited to our study than the area-conversion method because deer were not evenly distributed between areas suitable and unsuitable for sighting within open and forested areas. The assumption of equal distribution is required by the area-conversion method. Deer marked for the mark-resight method also helped reduce double counting during the dusk surveys.
Additional publication details
A comparison of 2 techniques for estimating deer density