In preparation of Fire Island National Seashore's 1978 general management plan, an island-wide aerial census was conducted in 1971, and 46 deer were observed. From 1983 to 1998 Seashore staff conducted an aerial count of deer twice each year. In 1985 Seashore staff initiated a study of deer home range, movements, physiological parameters, and incidence of Lyme disease in ticks. By 1989 the deer population on Fire Island was estimated at 500 individuals.
By the mid-1990s deer had become abundant within the Fire Island communities. In 1995 the U.S. Geological Survey recommended distance sampling as a new ground-based method of estimating deer abundance. Initial distance sampling surveys within Fire Island communities estimated a density of 80 deer/km2.
National Park Service lands on Fire Island and other areas within communities were added to the annual distance sampling survey effort by 1999, and continue today. Each year during the fall, Fire Island National Seashore staff carry out distance sampling.