Environmental Management

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 545-552

First online:

A Paleozoological Perspective on White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus texana) Population Density and Body Size in Central Texas

  • Steve WolvertonAffiliated withInstitute of Applied Sciences & Department of Geography, University of North Texas Email author 
  • , James H. KennedyAffiliated withInstitute of Applied Sciences & Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas
  • , John D. CorneliusAffiliated withOrion Research & Management Services, Inc.Natural Resources Branch, Fort Hood DPW

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Archaeological and paleontological datasets are used in conservation to add time-depth to ecology. In central Texas, several top carnivores including prehistoric Native American hunters have been extirpated or have had their historic ranges restricted, which has resulted in pest-level white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus texana) populations in some areas. Differences in body size of deer between prehistory and modernity are expected, given that a lack of predation likely has increased intraspecific competition for forage among deer, resulting in smaller body size today. In fact, modern deer from settings without harvest pressure are significantly smaller than those from harvested areas and from prehistoric deer. From a natural history perspective, this research highlights potential evolutionary causes and effects of top-predator removal on deer populations and related components of biological communities in central Texas.


White-tailed deer Management Body size Population density Overabundance Paleozoology