The implementation and the further development of the red deer management concept Southern Black Forest

The management concept for the red deer area in the Southern Black Forest has been implemented since 2008. It was developed by the Forest Research Institute of Baden-Wuerttemberg (FVA) in cooperation with the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft Rotwild” (red deer management group). The concept is based on extensive research conducted prior to the development process. The rights of landowners, the demands of humans, as well as the requirements of the red deer were considered. The key element of this management concept is a spatial concept (subdivision of the area into core, transition and border zones) with regulations concerning not only recreational uses, but also hunting, forestry and habitat management.

Further development

After 10 years of implementation, the concept of red deer management has been evaluated over the past two years. The main objective of the evaluation was to answer the question if the management concept is still relevant or if there is a need to make improvements.

The basis for this evaluation was the scientific analysis of the red deer population size, the habitat, the hunting management as well as local land users’ habits and attitudes. Besides the results presented below, public relations, possibilities for wildlife experiences, nature and animal protection as well as the needs of the red deer management group were also evaluated.

Red deer management

Generally, the numbers of a red deer population are quite difficult to determine. Therefore, we applied numerous methods to analyse the number of red deer in the deer area of the Southern Black Forest. Red deer abundance was estimated using data obtained from visual counts at winter feeding sites and track counts. An age- and sex-structured population model to estimate the winter population size was also constructed using bag records.

To verify stock sizes calculated according to these different methods, a non-invasive genetic capture-mark-recapture approach based on collected faeces was used. Genetic analyses of feacal DNA were performed to calculate the population in 2016.

The calculated population ranged between 280 and 710 individuals (figure 2). The analysis of the feacal DNA yielded a population of 460 individuals. At the same time the combination of the other methods calculated a population between 450 and 500 individuals in 2016.

All in all, the different methods showed a decline in the numbers of red deer. Thus, the population has been reduced within the past 10 years, which is the result of changes in hunting management (e.g. higher increase of using battues and of the number shot females).

The forest as a habitat and the damage caused by game

To improve habitat capacity, especially the natural food supply, specific silvicultural measures were carried out (e.g. thinning of the stand, improving and cultivation of forest margins). In combination with a reduced red deer population, these measures were aimed at decreasing the damage caused by red deer stripping off the bark of trees.

We used data from the forest inventory (forstliche Betriebsinventur, BI) to detect the development of the ground cover. Additionally, in 2016 we repeated the habitat survey done in 2006 to assess the red deer habitat and to analyse changes in habitat quality.

The results show a positive change in food cover. Therefore, the measures to increase habitat quality were effective. For example, the former high proportion of areas with almost no ground cover has decreased and now large parts are covered with herbs and shrubs [2]. The natural food availability in winter has improved as well (figure 3), which has been caused by reducing population size and improving habitat quality.

For an objective assessment of the damage caused by game, we used existing data from previous forestry inventories (BI). The analysis of the BI data showed no new stripping damage in spruce in the state forest in 2015/2016. Nevertheless, the stripping damage is still an issue because new stripping damage can occur at any time and many landowners’ attitudes are influenced by the widespread old stripping damage.

Further results and conclusions

The implementation of the red deer management concept is well on track, but there is still potential for optimization in various ways. The greatest success relates to the more detailed description of change in the relationship between red deer population and their habitat: the significant improvement in habitat quality and the simultaneous reduction of the red deer population prevented new stripping damage and created better living conditions for the red deer.

With the spatial concept further developed in 2018 based on the evaluation results and the associated measures (figure 4) coordinated by the red deer management group, a first step has been taken to further improve implementing the red deer management concept [2].


  • Suchant, R., Burghardt, F. and Gerecke, K. L. 2008: Rotwildkonzeption Südschwarzwald.
  • Suchant, R., Haydn, A. 2018: Rotwildkonzeption Südschwarzwald- Umsetzung und Weiterentwicklung.