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White-tailed deer should be classified as invasive species, Finnish conservation group says

Such a change would mean the animals could be hunted year-round, but a hunters' group is opposed to the idea.

White-tailed deer and fawn, file photo. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation has proposed that the white-tailed deer be added to the country's list of harmful invasive species by the year 2030.

According to the NGO, the species is responsible for traffic accidents and is also known to cause widespread damage to crops as well as natural flora.

White-tailed deer first appeared in Finland after being imported from North America in the 1930s, and since then has become a valued target of hunters. There are currently an estimated 109,000 of the animals in Finland, mostly in southern and south-west areas of the country.

The conservation group suggested that white-tailed deer hunting restrictions be abolished, which would not only increase culls of the animal but also ease bureaucracy involved in hunting of the animals.

It likened its current proposal to a change to hunting laws in 2005 when deer hunting was opened up to a larger number of hunters.

File photo of a white-tailed deer. Image: Kimmo Ohtonen / Yle

But, if white-tailed deer were to be included on the invasive species list, measures would need to be taken to promote other species, according to the group.

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Hunting group opposed

The NGO's proposal has not received support from the Finnish Hunters’ Association, according to the association's executive director, Jaakko Silpola.

Silpola said that the white-tailed deer is a valuable game animal and changing its status to an invasive species would not lead to the end result the nature conservation association is seeking.

According to the hunters' group, the current stock management system already requires hunting clubs to regulate the stock of deer as well as elk, as needed.

If white-tailed deer were to be designated as an invasive species, the animals would be in the same category as mink, muskrat and raccoon dog. Furthermore, no hunting license or firearms test would be required and hunting of the animals could take place year round, including during the mating season.