Question: “We are considering high fencing our 1,100 acre South Texas ranch in Brooks County, Texas, for increased whitetail deer management. We want to make sure we not only improve the habitat, but maintain or improve the quality of the deer on the property. Should we be concerned about inbreeding and a decline of deer quality on a relatively small place? Thanks for your opinion.”
Deer Management: I would not be concerned about the inbreeding of deer on a high fenced property of that size. You should “trap” more than enough deer when the fence is constructed so inbreeding or antler decline from inbreeding will will never be a problem. The high fence will allow you more management opportunity and flexibility, so that makes good sense if you are committed to deer management.
You will have to pay close attention to the plants and animals out there, since the deer can not leave and the herd will be reflective of the management and food availability. Make sure that you conduct deer surveys annually and harvest at the appropriate levels to maintain deer at the proper number for the habitat.
Once you are fenced, I would immediately look at getting your deer numbers in line with the habitat and getting your buck to doe ratio close to 1:1 and go from there. Habitat management combined supplemental feeding will only increase the overall health and productivity of the herd. How small could a high fenced property be before inbreeding within deer became a problem and negatively impacted deer management goals? Hard to say, but as long as a property can maintain at least 50 animals and they are not detrimental to the native habitat then I would not be concerned.