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Still time to report observations for Operation Deer Watch

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

-- More than 2,000 deer observations have been reported through the Operation Deer Watch program since it started Aug. 1. The reporting period runs for two months, ending at sundown on Sept. 30.

State wildlife officials are encouraging citizens to join the effort at any time.  

Officials say all observations are valuable in helping them determine the fawn-to-doe ratio, an important consideration in population estimations. The survey reporting information is available online at

"Summer deer observations have always been part of our deer management program and the results for this first year effort involving the public have been great," said Brian Dhuey, wildlife survey coordinator. "We've received reports from 120 of Wisconsin's 139 deer management units and we are receiving a lot of valuable information."

In past seasons, observation reports were collected during the months of July, August and September from state, federal and other agency staff as they went about their summertime duties. Following recommendations of wildlife experts who were asked to review Wisconsin's deer population estimating techniques the month of July was dropped from the survey period.
Researchers are interested in sightings of bucks, does and fawns.

Over the past four weeks observers have reported 564 bucks, 497 unknowns, 1,226 does without fawns, 415 fawns without does, 493 does with one fawn, 456 does with two fawns, and 40 does with three fawns. Preliminary data shows the statewide fawn-to-doe ratio at 0.88.

To put this preliminary fawn-doe ratio into perspective, Jason Fleener, assistant big game biologist, offers this analysis: "The 50-year statewide average is 0.86 fawns per doe, and the 10-year average is 0.84. Last year's results include observations for the month of July, which tend to be lower than the months of August and September. Fawns become more visible as they become larger and spend more time with their mothers. It's too early to draw any conclusions about this year's productivity until the survey period has expired. The average fawn to doe ratio is highest in the month of August when fawns are larger, have spots and are more easily observed."

Previous survey results from the DNR and federal officials can be found on the Wisconsin Wildlife Reports page of the DNR website (Click on the "big game" tab and then look under deer for summer observation reports.)

For people who are not familiar with deer biology, Fleener notes that deer are more reddish-brown during the summer months. They shed their summer coat in late summer or early fall and replace it with a thick, brownish-gray winter coat. "Fawns also lose their spots by late summer or early fall so, if possible, take an extra minute to confirm your observations," Fleener said.

For more information about the program, contact Dhuey at (608)221-6342.

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