Friday, April 8, 2011

Damage to the Understory

Deer density is not the sole factor in the diminishing of the understory. There are other known causes, such as canopies of mature trees inhibiting sun from penetrating to the understory. The diminishing understory is not an aberrant phenomenon; it is a natural occurrence. It is part of normal ecological succession

The truth and nothing but the truth about deer exclosures (outside a fenced area)


It is safe to say we all know a law enforcement officer can not fabricate evidence to arrest an individual and prosecute him for a crime. The punishment for such an act can be greater than the alleged crime. Society has a low tolerance for this type of law enforcement activity, but it does happen. The story I am about to tell you is just as distasteful, but the crime isn't against a human being. It is against our most valuable natural resource, the whitetail deer.

We have all seen pictures of fenced areas carved into our mature forests with heavy deer browsing around the perimeter. As a matter of fact these provocative pictures are continuously used to condemn this magnificent and valuable animal. No other piece of evidence has been utilized as frequently to substantiate that we have a severe deer overpopulation problem. Unfortunately, in this case a picture is worth a thousand lies.

Most states have long-established a maximum carrying capacity for deer by region, WMU or county depending on the habitat. This is the point at which deer do damage to the forest. For this discussion we'll use 40 deer per square mile. The management goal would then be set at 20 deer per square to insure forest regeneration and ample food for deer to be healthy. Goals are usually set at 50% of maximum carrying capacity, but 70% would work just as well.

Getting back to fenced deer exclosures, you must be aware of a few facts before we do the math. First, the "professional" scientific community does not recognize deer exclosures as a valid method of measuring deer impacts. True science requires putting deer into "inclosures" at varying densities and measuring their impact. Exclosures create a "0" deer density baseline example.

Secondly, fenced exclosures create an "oasis effect". Actually, they draw deer in higher than normal densities to an obvious food source. The growth within the fenced area is like putting a piece of candy just outside the reach of a child. The deer come continuously to see if they can grab a meal.

The pictures that I have had shoved in my face are all the same. We see a fenced cut area of maybe 10 acres deep in a mature forest with a cut area around the perimeter of the fence maybe 25 feet wide. The unfenced area is clearly browsed by deer. Now let's talk numbers.

Let's say the unfenced perimeter area is two acres around this fenced ten acres. Let's say two deer move in to browse. That's a density of one deer per acre. There are 640 acres in a square mile. Bingo. The browsing effect in this example is 640 deer per square mile! Just two deer created that provocative picture. Go ahead and play with the numbers yourself. Let's say 10 acres were left unfenced and the same two deer moved in to browse. That would equate to one deer for five acres divided into 640 acres and you have the impact of 128 deer per square fenced mile! Certainly, the area will be chewed down.

Are you getting the real picture? Just one or two deer can create those inflammatory pictures. Some want you to believe our deer are akin to a horde of locusts swarming the area and eating everything in sight. Furthermore, I would ask, where are the pictures of our swarms of deer? It would be inexpensive and quite convincing to put an infrared motion camera on every corner of the fenced area and show us the number of deer browsing. I am certain this has been done, but we will never see those pictures. Those pictures would reveal one or deer continuously browsing the area, not a horde of deer. We know that because we hunt deer.

What I am saying is I can make an argument for fraud. Those condemning pictures utilized by the anti-deer crowd are intended to persuade an uninformed public that we have a deer epidemic. Fenced deer exclosures are not science. They are a deceptive political tool to rally the public around a deer reduction program over the objections of our sporting class.

I believe a crime has been committed. This is no different than the cop that fabricates evidence to get a conviction. We have been lied to and our deer have been framed, prosecuted and condemned to death.
The above is just one more reason why we need full sportsmen involvement in deer management decisions. It would also be nice to be told the truth.

Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the "Sportsman's Connection", a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at:

Science News

High deer populations good for ecosystem

Published: Oct. 22, 2008 at 11:16 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio , Oct. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have discovered snakes, salamanders and other creatures thrive in areas that have high deer populations.

Conversely, Ohio State University and National Park Service scientists say they've also discovered reducing the number of deer in forests and parks might unexpectedly reduce the number of reptiles, amphibians and insects in that area.

The study was conducted as some states are selectively controlling deer populations. The findings contradict previous research that suggested deer populations can negatively impact forest ecosystems through eating plants that many smaller animals may depend on.

The new findings also suggest high deer populations might be creating a richer soil mixture through their droppings. That rich soil can benefit some plants, which in turn attracts a wider diversity of insects and invertebrates.

"By just reducing the number of deer in the forest, we're actually indirectly impacting forest ecosystems without even knowing the possible effects," said Katherine Greenwald, co-author of the study and a doctoral student at Ohio State .

The research that included former OSU Associate Professor Thomas Waite and Lisa Petit of Ohio 's Cuyahoga Valley National Park appeared recently in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

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