Cornell UniversityThe Nature Conservancy

Phase 2: Decision-making

Key events

CBDM Process DiagramSet good objectives

Management objectives are finalized early in this phase. This critical step will be the cornerstone of your community’s deer management plan. Taking the time now to spell out objectives makes it possible to select the best strategies to achieve them (Phase 3) -- and to assess the long-term success of your program (Phase 4). Click here for resources that can help you with objective setting. A good objective is  “S.M.A.R.T.”  “S.M.A.R.T.” is a useful way to remember the most important elements of a good objective.

  • Specific – Is it focused?
  • Measurable – Is there an indicator that will confirm whether it has been achieved?
  • Attainable – Is it realistic given available resources?
  • Relevant – Is it a good fit for your community’s situation?
  • Time-related – By when will the results be achieved?

Create a deer committee

Most communities establish a deer committee at this stage, if they have not already done so. The committee considers a range of potential actions to achieve management objectives, including those designed to influence human behavior (e.g., educating residents on how to protect planting from deer) and those aimed at reducing deer numbers (e.g., hunting, culling, inhibiting deer reproduction). During this stage it is especially helpful to consult with:

Photo © Debra James

  • State wildlife agency staff. Your state’s wildlife agency holds the authority for deer management. They are a great resource to help your community learn about the feasibility of deer management approaches and the permitting you will need to gain authority to take management actions.
  • Other communities. Identify a few communities that are already actively managing deer. Whether a neighboring municipality or a community on the other side of the country, the community examples featured on this site will help you get a feel for how other communities have approached this stage.

Weigh your options

Keep in mind that all proposed actions have consequences, both positive and negative. Stay focused on whether an action will truly help your community reach its deer management goals. Then, assess the costs and benefits of different actions from the perspectives of multiple stakeholders. At this point the deer committee can recommend a set of actions best-suited for meeting deer management objectives.

Select the course of action

Now it is up to a decision-maker (or decision-making body) to determine how to move forward on deer management taking the deer committee's recommendations, which can be decided in a number of different ways. Sometimes decisions are made by the residents of a community, through a community vote. In other cases, decisions are made by elected or appointed representatives of the area where deer are to be managed (e.g., village trustees, homeowners’ association, town supervisor, administrators of a park system or an interagency task force). Choose the model that works best for your community’s circumstances.

Key information needs

The decision-making phase requires technical information from experts and local knowledge from community members. The quality of deliberations about potential actions depends on several factors, including: the quality of information about the costs; benefits and feasibility of each alternative; and efforts to consider each alternative in light of established community goals. It’s important that the information used to make decisions is perceived by recipients as coming from unbiased, trustworthy sources—especially important if you end up needing to justify or even defend publicly the decision about actions selected.

Common challenges

Experience has shown that if stakeholders themselves resolve differences and settle on a set of acceptable actions for deer management in their community, resulting decisions about potential actions tend to be more sustainable. But even under the best circumstances, challenges may arise for various reasons. Two common reasons deer management decisions get delayed are:

  • Disagreement about action alternatives. Residents may be deeply divided about the appropriateness of proposed action alternatives. Having a skilled process facilitator can encourage productive dialog and lessen the likelihood that decisions will be challenged by individuals or interest groups who feel marginalized by the process.
  • Delays in moving to implementation. If elected officials are responsible for decision making, they may delay or postpone politically sensitive choices, even after extensive efforts to gather community input. Contested decisions may require an environmental impact assessment or other administrative process before they can be implemented. Such delays contribute to frustration among stakeholders experiencing deer-related problems, and can amplify distrust of decision makers among some stakeholders who believe the process is not progressing in a timely manner.

Recommended Resources

Make communication a priority for your community's deer management program. Consult these guides to learn how.

Consult these materials to compare possible action alternatives for deer management in your community.

Dig deeper into community-based deer management with these practitioners' guides. 

Explore the basics of deer biology, ecology, and management.

Find books, newspaper articles, blog posts and more about the relationships between communities and deer.

Read these first if you are new to community-based deer management.

Jump-start your community's deer management program with these templates.

Common Questions

There is no easy answer to this question. Time will vary based on a number of factors and needs specific to your community, including the amount of time and money you are willing to contribute, the support of local elected officials, the management method selected, and public support of the effort. CBDM is often not a one-off effort, but an ongoing commitment by a community. Some communities are able to come to a decision and take actions quickly (i.e., less than a year). In other communities it can take years to agree upon and implement deer management actions. Browsing our library of cases may be helpful to you in finding communities that may be similar to your own, in order to get a sense of the time commitment that may be needed. However, keep in mind that what worked in one community, no matter how similar it seems to your own, is not guaranteed to work in yours. 

Stakeholder engagement can be accomplished in many ways, so it does not look exactly the same in every community. Some communities get input from public meetings or comments on proposed actions; some collect information using surveys of community residents. Other communities involve stakeholders more directly, using in face-to-face deliberations like focus groups or workshops. Over time communities may gather information using a combination of several approaches. The best approach for engaging people will depend on factors such as: the level of conflict over deer, the number of stakeholders affected, how interested and aware stakeholders are in the deer management issue, how much information decision makers need from stakeholders, as well as any resource limitations your community might have. For more discussion on this, please see Decker et al. 2002.

There are many kinds of experts you might consult throughout your community’s CBDM process. Different experts have different kinds of expertise, including expertise implementing the types of management alternatives a community is considering, expertise on state wildlife management laws and policies, and expertise on process management and public involvement. Some wildlife experts may work for or have worked for a government agency or organization, have university credentials, or be a certified wildlife biologist. It may also be helpful to get a sense of what kinds of experiences the expert you are considering has had with respect to deer management. Your community may benefit from consulting more than one expert for different phases.

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