From six to hundreds? Concerns as deer population swells in Portland

A majestic white-tailed buck spotted in Portland, Jamaica (Photo: Damion Whyte, Twitter @Roosters_World)

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) said it is developing a management/control strategy to curb the growing population of white-tailed deer in sections of the parish of Portland.

NEPA indicated that more recent figures are not available since the last population study was conducted in 2003, when approximately 182 deer were counted in the island, but the body suspects that the number is much larger.

“Research is ongoing as to the approximate population of the white-tailed deer in Jamaica, however, the population has increased since the escape of three does and three bucks from Somerset Falls in 1988. A 2003 survey has estimated 182 white-tailed deer; with an expectation that there are considerably more individuals at present,” NEPA said in response to a request for comment from BUZZ.

Portland, the perfect habitat for deer…

According to NEPA, Portland’s terrain is among several ideal factors that contribute to the proliferation of the white-tailed deer, made more concerning since the invasive species has no natural predators on the island.

“Deer prefer edge habitats where fields and forests come together as it produces an area with abundant shrubs and low growing trees. Additionally, deer has no natural predators to keep their population in check in Jamaica and as such, they [can] reproduce without much interference,” BUZZ was told.

Other positive factors for the boon in deer numbers are Portland’s ideal temperature and wide availability of food.

Deer sightings are becoming increasingly common as well, with several farmers facing the brunt of their crops being ravaged by the grazing mammals. NEPA indicated that based on its findings, this number is small.

Farmers on the frontline of deer explosion

“Based on investigations conducted with farmers, deer have some impact on farming in these areas however, only a small number of farmers expressed that they are severely affected. Carrot and pumpkin farmers, in particular, are affected as it appears that the deer prefer these crops,” NEPA explained.

Hunting of deer is encouraged, however, current laws prohibit this practise in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, where the largest population of the animal is suspected to be.

Photo: animals.net

“At present, surveys are being conducted to obtain information on the distribution, capture methods and impact of the white-tailed deer to develop a management/control strategy,” according to NEPA.

Jamaicans are being encouraged not to capture and redistribute the animals elsewhere across the island, however residents and farmers are emboldened to protect their interests from white-tailed deer, safely and humanely.

“NEPA encourages farmers and residents to continue to protect their farming interests through the use of safe and humane methods. The agency would also urge residents not to move or transfer these animals from one area of the island to another as this would only worsen the situation and be counter-productive in the efforts to control this invasive species,” the government body disclosed.

In the cases of deer meat consumption, NEPA told BUZZ it would defer to the Ministry of Health and Wellness for its proper guidance on the safety of venison.