Keywords: white tailed deer, history, impact on natural resources

Prepared by: David Jackson, Extension Educator

Lesson Plan Grade Level: 6-12th

Total Time Required for Lesson: 3 hours classroom and research time

Setting: Classroom, library, computer room

Topics: history, population shifts, impact on natural resources

Goals for the Lesson

Upon Completion of this lesson students will be able to:

  • Report on the historical importance of white-tailed deer.

  • Summarize 3 reasons for population changes in white-tailed deer over the past 100 years.

  • Suggest a possible management option to control deer populations.

  • Name two impacts white-tailed deer have on the health and sustainability of the forest ecosystem

Materials Needed

State Standards Addressed

  • 1.2.8.A Reading Critically in All Content Areas - Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas. (PA State Standard Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening)

  • 1.4.8.B Types of Writing - Write multi-paragraph informational pieces (e.g., letters, descriptions, reports, instructions, essays, articles, interviews). (PA State Standard Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening)

  • 1.6.8.A Speaking and Listening - Listen to others. (PA State Standard Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening)

  • 1.6.8.C Speaking and Listening - Speak using skills appropriate to formal speech situations. (PA State Standard Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening)

  • 4.2.7.A Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources - Know that raw materials come from natural resources. Explain how plants and animals may be classified as natural resources. (PA State Standard Environment and Ecology)

  • 4.2.7.B Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources - Examine the renewability of resources. Identify renewable resources and describe their use. Determine how consumption may impact the availability of resources. (PA State Standard Environment and Ecology)

  • 4.3.7.C Environmental Health - Explain biological diversity. (PA State Standard Environment and Ecology)

  • 4.6.7.A Ecosystems and their Interactions - Explain the flows of energy and matter from organism to organism within an ecosystem. (PA State Standard Environment and Ecology)

  • 4.7.7.C Threatened, Endangered, and Extinct Species - Explain natural or human actions in relation to the loss of species. (PA State Standard Environment and Ecology)

  • 4.8.7.B Humans and the Environment - Explain how people use natural resources. (PA State Standard Environment and Ecology)

  • 4.8.7.D Humans and the Environment - Explain the importance of maintaining the natural resources at the local, state, and national levels. (PA State Standard Environment and Ecology)

  • 4.9.7.A Environmental Laws and Regulations - Explain the role of environmental laws and regulations. (PA State Standard Environment and Ecology)

  • 8.2.9.C Pennsylvania History - Identify and analyze how continuity and change have influenced Pennsylvania history from the 1787 to 1914. (PA State Standard History)


Cooperative Learning Exercise, Inquiry, and Investigating Environmental Issues

Doing the Activity

  1. Administer the pre-test to the students. Explain the purpose of the pretest. Allow approximately 10 minutes for the test.

  2. Show video: Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences - White-tailed Deer: Pennsylvania's Most Controversial Animal (34 minutes)

  3. Hand out From the Woods: White-tailed Deer and Deer, Communities & Quality of Life fliers.

  4. Divide students into five working groups. Assign each group a topic to research (see Group Assignments A-E below). Much of the information can be found in the fliers. However, it is recommended that students use various sources of media to research their questions, including the internet, and their local wildlife management agency (PA Game Commission web site provided below). Caution students about using web sites that are not reliable sources or don't use research based information.

  5. Have each group of students prepare a ½ page report on their topic.

  6. Allow time for the students to report their findings back to the class.

  7. After the instructor has allowed time for all the presentations and discussions administer the post-test.

  8. Compare pre and post test scores.

Group Assignments

A. Deer and Native Americans
Describe the historical relationship between the Native Americans and white-tailed deer. Describe the many roles that deer played in the everyday lives of the Native Americans (food, shelter, clothing, trading)? What was the population level of deer 300 years ago? What helped keep deer populations in balance with the habitat back then?

B. Deer and Early American Settlers
Describe the relationship between the early American settlers and white-tailed deer. What was the role of deer in the lives of the early settlers? How was wildlife viewed by the early settlers? What was the population level of the deer during settlement times? Was it reduced? If so, how? What agency was created to protect the wildlife resources in your state? When was it established and what kinds of things did they do to help deer populations?

C. Deer Today
Describe the relationship between people today and white-tailed deer. What is the role of deer in the lives of people today? Is any one group of people most concerned about white-tailed deer today (homeowners, gardeners, landscapers, motorists, farmers, hunters, foresters)? What is the current population of deer estimated to be in your state?

D. Biological Diversity
Describe what the term "biodiversity" means and how white-tailed deer can influence it. How can white-tailed deer populations influence the biodiversity of a forest? What type of feeders are white-tailed deer and what do they primarily eat? What is the most immediate impact of high deer numbers to the forests ecosystem? Do overabundant white-tailed deer populations influence other wildlife species, if so, how?

E. Deer Management
Describe the current management practices utilized to control the population of white-tailed deer (hunting seasons, sharp shooters, baiting, birth control). What agency in your state is responsible for deer management? How is this agency funded? What does their governing body consist of? Which management practice is considered the most effective in reducing the population level of white-tailed deer, and maintaining a healthy deer herd?

Enrichment Activity: Guest Speaker

Invite a wildlife biologist or game warden from your state wildlife management agency in to speak to the class about the history of deer management in the state.

Conclusion & Assessment (Evaluation)

  • Traditional Testing and Observation
    The students will be evaluated based upon their participation in preparing and presenting the reports. Each student will also be assessed based upon differences between the pre and post test scores. Knowledge gained will be measured.