Staff with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are currently conducting their annual nighttime spring spotlight surveys across the state, collecting information on Iowa’s deer and furbearer populations.
The annual survey is conducted from mid-March to mid-April in each county, beginning an hour after sunset, preferably on nights with low wind, good visibility and high humidity. The routes cover different habitats from river bottoms, to farm fields, prairies, woodlots, pastures and timber stands.
The 50-mile routes – two per county - are driven below 20 miles per hour with staff shining spotlights out of both sides of the vehicle, recording the number of deer and furbearers seen along with the habitat type, at different points along the way. Staff are careful to avoid shining homes and livestock while on the survey and contact the county sheriff ahead of time in case they receive any calls.
“This survey produces really valuable information on our deer and furbearer populations, both locally and at the state level, allowing us to see population trends over time,” said Jace Elliott, deer research specialist with the Iowa DNR. The survey began in the late 1970s as a way to collect information on the raccoon population, but was expanded to include deer and other furbearers.
“It’s an important index that is combined with other data and surveys we use that gives us the most complete picture for these species and guides our management decisions to benefit the resource,” Elliott said.
The survey report will be posted later this summer to the Iowa DNR’s website at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Population-Harvest-Trends