Too many deer? A public hearing

This page authored by Eric Ribbens, Western Illinois University, based on an original case by Eric Ribbens, Western Illinois University. Published in the NSF case collection:
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This material was originally created for Starting Point: Teaching Economics
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.


This case recreates a public hearing to consider what to do about a deer overpopulation problem in an urban oldgrowth forest. This forest, over 200 acres, has more than 40 deer, and the deer are impacting the vegetation.
Students are assigned different roles, representing different viewpoints that were expressed at the public hearing. Other students act as meeting moderators or as expert witnesses.
By reenacting the public hearing students experience the reality of multiple perspectives and opinions, some of which have more merit than others. All of the perspectives except one were really expressed at the actual public hearing.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

1: Science may be logical, but public policy is messy.
2: Experience in evaluating complex problems and identifying the best solution.
3: Understand the impacts of overpopulation.

Context for Use

This case is good for a class of 20 or more students, since there are many roles. I often use it fairly early in my course, since it is a good ice-breaker that gets almost everyone involved. It is suitable for introductory biology-environmental studies courses or ecology courses.

Description and Teaching Materials

The NSF Case collection website has the script, and directions for utilizing it. Cut the script into pieces, and give each piece to a separate student. Ask the students to read their piece dramatically, and to imagine that this is really their perspective. Be passionate!

Note that there are several parts!

Ribbens, E. 2001. Too many deer! A case study in managing urban deer herds. In The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science Case Study Collection.

Teaching Notes and Tips


I ask my students to write reaction papers. Which perspective was the false one, and why? What should be done about the deer herd?

References and Resources

see teaching notes