University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences


Experiment 319 - Assessing vegetation impacts from deer: A UMN Extension citizen-science program

Deer have been classified as a keystone species because when their populations become large they can change the structure and composition of the forests they live in. These changes occur because deer prefer certain plant species. In areas with high deer populations, preferred species are more stressed and have more difficulty regenerating. This leaves species (including invasive plants) available which deer do not prefer, which in turn cause changes in forests with high deer populations.

Due to the large influence deer can have on forest systems, it is essential to manage deer populations and understand which areas of the state may be at risk from high deer populations. We are developing a citizen science project that would inform natural resource managers on vegetation impacts from deer populations in and around Minnesota. We plan to ask woodland owners and other volunteers (e.g., Master Naturalists) to establish plots on their own land and/or in public areas around the state. Within these plots they would tag one or two preferred wildflowers or tree seedling species and revisit those individuals regularly to examine growth after multiple years. If growth or flowering is minimal and there is evidence of deer browse after resampling, it can suggest that deer are impacting vegetation in the area.

Our citizen science program will: (1) collect data that can be used to monitor deer populations in Minnesota, (2) assist volunteers in understanding the impact that high deer populations have on forest health, and (3) motivate participants in scientific research that is happening at the University of Minnesota.

Methods for e319


Dataset IDTitleRange of Years (# years with data)