MSU Deer Lab co-director will keep contributing to work in retirement

Published 10:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2024

STARKVILLE — Steve Demarais, co-director of the MSU Deer Lab, retired last week. His career working with white-tailed deer began in college although his fascination with deer started in high school. He loved hunting and fishing growing up and his first harvest of a deer was in college when he was at the University of Massachusetts. 

Demarais is a native of Attleboro, Massachusetts but headed south to become one of the MSU Deer Lab’s first graduate students. He spent 15 years teaching and researching in Texas at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Texas Tech before joining the MSU faculty in 1997. 

“I came here to retire. It was my last job,” Demarais said. “Texas Tech was a great job. It was all about big game management and a great place to be. I had been here at State as a graduate student. It was a wonderful place to work. I wanted to come back.” 

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He does not plan to leave Starkville or Mississippi State just yet. Demarais said faculty voted to give him the title of Professor Emeritus. It essentially allows him to continue working at the University without being paid. 

“I love being a part of MSU and the Deer Lab in particular. To serve in that function, I’m excited,” Demarais said. “It goes back to what we do is intellectually stimulating. I’ve been involved in a profession, wildlife management, and you are committed to the development of it.” 

Demarais said the Deer Lab is working on a few research projects including one working with Chronic Wasting Disease and giving state agencies another way to survey for the disease’s presence in areas. 

He said the research professors do is a passion and involves creativity. Demarais is not ready to give it up and will continue to be involved in the projects he helped start. 

“I love what I do and I have loved every day that I go to ‘work.’ It is not work, it is something I enjoy doing. I plan on prioritizing personal interests. I’ve been blessed to have three children and they are all adults and I have three grandchildren. I plan on spending more time with all of them.” 

Demarais enjoys traveling and plans to spend more time visiting places for personal enjoyment. He also hopes to spend more time in the deer woods hunting. His work with researching deer made it to where he didn’t have to hunt as much in the last 40 years. 

His retirement will usher in a new co-director of the MSU Deer Lab. The replacement has not been announced yet. Demarais said he will mentor them as much or as little as they want to be mentored. 

As for the MSU Deer Lab podcast “Deer University,” Demarais will continue to be a co-host until the new co-director settles in. The podcast has helped the Deer Lab teach private land managers how to better manage the land, habitat and resource. 

Demarais said the biggest lesson he learned in his time at State was from his mentor Harry Jacobson. 

“He mentored me and taught me you should always put the wildlife resource first and learn what matters to the people who manage the resource,” Demarais said. “Politics and what people want to do shouldn’t matter. It hasn’t mattered in my perspective. I want to learn the important biological facts and how it translates to effective management to benefit the resource and our use. It is the people collectively, not the individual’s use. We need to do what is best for deer generally.” 

Check back for stories on his most important research projects and the people he helped shape.