Protection of natural environments

Overabundance of white-tailed deer

Mont-Saint-Bruno and Îles‑de‑Boucherville national parks

The overabundance of white-tailed deer in Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno and Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville is threatening the biodiversity of these natural jewels located close to urban areas. Population control operations can take place to protect and conserve the ecosystems of these territories for Québec residents and future generations.

Frequently asked questions

Our team has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about this issue. Your question(s) may already be answered right here.

  • How does overabundance threaten ecosystems, public health, and public safety?
    • Ecosystems

      Excessive grazing diminishes biodiversity, reduces vegetation regeneration, encourages the establishment of invasive exotic species and the homogenization of plant structure, and adds to other challenges already afflicting natural environments, such as the emerald ash borer.

      Grazing negatively alters habitats and not only deprives other species of food, but also the deer themselves, who are starving in increasing numbers in spring for lack of sufficient sustenance.

      Public health

      This overpopulation of deer increases the risk of disease transmission, including Lyme disease, since the bacterium that causes the disease is present in tick populations in the Montérégie region, and white-tailed deer are both hosts and dispersers of ticks in the area.

      Within the herd itself, an excessive number of members creates a scarcity of available food, and therefore weaker individuals, i.e. creatures more likely to catch a disease in an environment conducive to propagation.

      Public safety

      On average, there are over 6,000 collisions between vehicles and white-tailed deer every year in Québec.

      Nuisance factor

      White-tailed deer cause significant damage to residences in neighbouring municipalities and to the crops of local farmers.
  • How much worse could the situation really get?
    • The overabundance of deer has already been causing serious damage in these two national parks for years. Deer can reproduce at an impressive rate. Males are polygamous, and females, some of which are impregnated in their first year of life, can give birth to one to three fawns annually.

      Inventories over the past few years show a steady increase in the herd. As the herd grows, so does the problem. And survival rates are boosted by the milder winters of recent years.
  • How is the “lethal method” best suited to the situation in the two national parks?
    • Current populations are very large, respectively five and eight times higher than the optimum density. So we need to do more than curb the growth of the herd; we need to reduce the herd itself.

      Non-lethal methods such as exclusion (fencing), repellents or scare tactics, artificial feeding, sterilization, and contraception cannot reduce the herd. Such interventions maintain, displace, or slow down the problem as much as possible, but without solving it.

      Capture and relocation not only place a great deal of stress on the animal, but also carry a high risk of injury and a low survival rate. It is not recommended to release deer into unknown natural environments, where they can be vectors for the spread of disease, suffer great difficulty in adapting to their new setting, and become targets for predators. The potential refuges that could accommodate deer have limited and largely insufficient capacity.

      Although relocation is perceived by the public as an effective and humane method of dealing with the situation, research shows that this is rarely the case, and that relocation carries many risks, including low survival rates.

      The white-tailed deer is not a threatened species. Its population in Québec numbers over 250,000 individuals. More than 55,000 white-tailed deer were hunted in Québec in 2022.
  • How do you ensure public safety during such operations?
    • Public safety is a central concern in the planning of the entire operations, which are carried out by population control professionals. The national parks in question are closed during population control operations and access to the parks is prohibited.

      We would like to stress to the public the importance of strictly respecting the signage informing them of access to the national parks and their opening hours. Field checks are carried out to ensure as far as possible that no one remains on the territories during the planned operations.
  • How do you ensure that the situation is monitored to verify the effectiveness of the preferred response?
    • Inventories continue to be carried out each year to monitor the evolution of the herd. Monitoring the grazing of seedlings planted each year in different locations in the two parks enable our conservation teams to see the impact of population control measures. The exclosures remain in place for a few years to ensure that biodiversity is maintained until the desired densities are reached.
  • What happens to all the venison collected?
    • All the venison that can be recovered is distributed to underprivileged families. Sépaq works in partnership with the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et des pêcheurs, which has set up the Chasseurs généreux (generous hunters) program to ensure that the meat is prepared through its network of certified butchers and distributed through its network of food banks.

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