Public Event: Environmental destruction and loss of biodiversity by deer overpopulation

DeVito and Bull

The Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance 
invites you to a public presentation on the ecological effects of deer overpopulation in the north east

Drastic Deer Damage Requires Urgent Deer Reduction

Emile D. DeVito, PhD
Manager of Science and Stewardship,
New Jersey Conservation Foundation


Milan G. Bull
Senior Director of Science and Conservation
Connecticut Audubon Society, Fairfield.

Tuesday October 14th at 7:00 pm
Weston Public Library

The Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance hosted its second fall seminar on the impact of deer overabundance this past Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at the Weston Public Library.  The full house was welcomed by Weston’s First Selectman, Woody Bliss, who conveyed his personal accounts of how deer overabundance has impacted his family through Lyme disease.  He also spoke of the commitment the Town of Weston has to reducing the deer herd density for environmental reasons. 
Ridgefield representative to the Alliance, Chairman Patricia Sesto introduced the expert speakers, noting that “damage to our natural areas and the consequences to other wildlife are probably the least recognized negative impacts associated with deer overabundance.” 
Dr. Emile DeVito, Manager of Science and Stewardship at New Jersey Conservation Foundation spoke of the loss of native vegetation below the browse line of five feet and the opportunity this browse line provides for non-native vegetation. “If you want your forests to recover”, stated Dr. DeVito, “you are going to have to reduce the deer population to single digits.”  Once the wooded area is healthy again, which could take a decade or more, the forest can support 15-20 deer per square mile.  DeVito also spoke to the need to create seed banks within the recovering woodlands.  He recommends fencing off plots within the damaged natural areas and replanting those with native species to provide the desired seed source.
Wilton Alliance representative, David Lynch, recalled how striking the photographs of the damaged forest were. “The landscape of Wilton is just like Dr. DeVito’s slides, no shrubs except for some areas of non-native species such as barberry and winged euonymus.”
DeVito’s talk detailed the problems with the overbrowsed forest. “If there is a blowdown from a hurricane or an old tree that falls and creates a light gap, then there are no young trees waiting to fill that gap.”  He spoke of the need for a multi-layered forest of shrubs and saplings in the understory and mature trees in the canopy.  “The dense shade that results from these multiple layers favors native flowers and discourages non-native species.”  A diversity of plants is needed to support a diversity of wildlife.  
The multiple layers also contribute to more stable soils and less stormwater runoff.  Soil compaction from deer “traffic” and accelerated consumption of leaf litter by an invasive Asiatic earthworm were also cited as contributors to more stormwater runoff.
Milan Bull Senior Director of Science and Conservation for the Connecticut Audubon Society, spoke specifically about the reduction of birds in area forests. Mr. Bull stated that rufous-sided towhees have declined by 95%, blue-winged warbler by 73%, and brown-thrashers by 99%.  These species in addition to several others named, need shrubs and scrub for nesting and feeding.  As the deer browse these plantings into nonexistence, the birds have lost necessary habitat.
Both speakers clearly made the point that in order to restore our natural areas to a healthy condition, deer populations must be reduced and increased sport hunting and/ or planned controlled hunts are the current options available to communities.
Additional information on deer damage to area woodlands and other topics related to deer overabundance can be found on this web site and in the following links.

Links:  DEER IMPACTS ON UNDERSTORY VEGETATION and EFFECTS OF CHANGES IN UNDERSTORY VEGETATION ON SONGBIRD HABITAT Deer Alter Diversity.pdf+over+browsing+by+deer+reduced+habitat+for+birds&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AHIEtbTyb49pI6g-Y-7YSnKPlU9bZCcAkg

Some of the plant losses we have experienced here in CT as described by Ken Metzler, DEP Plant Ecologist (now retired):
Oak and Birch seedlings
Regeneration of conifers, specifically Hemlock, Red Cedar, Atlantic White Cedar, Northern White Cedar
Maple-leafed Viburnum
Beaked Hazel
Orchids and Lilies
Please refer to his article in the CT Audubon State of the Birds Report, 2007: 2007 report.pdf