NICHES Land Trust implemented our deer management program in 2010 with one property, Weiler-Leopold. Today, our program includes 32 of our properties totaling just over 2,320 acres. In this presentation, Justin Harmeson, NICHES Land Steward and Staff Lead for this program, shares why this program is an important part of our stewardship activities, how the program is structured, facilitated, and the process for getting involved.
When deer numbers are high, favored plant species may have reduced flowering and growth or may be eliminated from the forest ecosystem, resulting in a reduction in the biological diversity of an area (Webster et al., 2005; Jenkins et al.,2007). The resulting degradation of plant communities can have dramatic effects on the richness of bird, amphibian, insect, and mammalian species (Ĉoté et al., 2004). Surveys of woody-plant herbivory on NICHES properties indicate many other plant species have been severely over-browsed and are, in many cases, missing from the landscape. Given that one mission of NICHES is to restore and maintain biodiversity−in all its forms−good stewardship requires maintenance of appropriately sized deer populations. Hunter-driven harvest is the only cost-effective means of reducing the deer population in free-ranging herds. Annual harvest by a selected number of hunters is used to remove deer from selected properties by focusing the harvest of female animals. These harvests reduce the impacts of deer on NICHES properties, protect system-wide biodiversity, and maintain a healthy population of resident deer which contributes positively to their habitat.
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