Deer - Economic Significance

Economic Significance

Deer have long had economic significance to humans. Deer meat, for which they are hunted and farmed, is called venison. Deer organ meat is called humble. See humble pie.

The Sami of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula of Russia and other nomadic peoples of northern Asia use reindeer for food, clothing, and transport.

The caribou in North America is not domesticated or herded as is the case of reindeer (the same species), reindeer are often found in colder regions in Europe, but is important as a quarry animal to the Inuit. Most commercial venison in the United States is imported from New Zealand.

Deer were originally brought to New Zealand by European settlers, and the deer population rose rapidly. This caused great environmental damage and was controlled by hunting and poisoning until the concept of deer farming developed in the 1960s. Deer farming has advanced into a significant economic activity in New Zealand with more than 3,000 farms running over 1 million deer in total. Deer products are exported to over 50 countries around the world, with New Zealand becoming well recognised as a source of quality venison and co-products.

Automobile collisions with deer can impose a significant cost on the economy. In the U.S., about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents cause about 150 human deaths and $1.1 billion in property damage annually. The sight of deer standing motionless, caught in headlights gives rise to the phrase "deer in the headlights".

In some areas of the UK, deer (especially fallow deer due to their gregarious behaviour), have been implicated as a possible reservoir for transmission of bovine tuberculosis, a disease which in the UK in 2005 cost £90 million in attempts to eradicate. In New Zealand, deer are thought to be important as vectors picking up M. bovis in areas where brushtail possums, (Trichosurus vulpecula), are infected, and transferring it to previously uninfected possums when their carcasses are scavenged elsewhere. The white-tailed deer, (Odocoileus virginianus), has been confirmed as the sole maintenance host in the Michigan outbreak of bovine tuberculosis which remains a significant barrier to the US nationwide eradication of the disease in livestock. In 2008, 733,998 licensed deer hunters harvested approximately 489,922 white-tailed deer in attempts to control the deer population and disease spread. These hunters purchased more than 1.5 million deer harvest tags. The economic value of deer hunting to Michigan’s economy is substantial. For example, in 2006, hunters spent US$507 million hunting white-tailed deer in Michigan.

Deer hunting is a popular activity in the U.S. and generates revenue for states and the federal government from the sales of licenses, permits and tags. The 2006 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that license sales generate approximately $700 million annually. This revenue generally goes to support conservation efforts in the states where the licenses are purchased. Overall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that big game hunting for deer and elk generates approximately $11.8 billion annually in hunting-related travel, equipment and related expenditures.

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