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Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Sat Jun 23, 2018 3:08 pm
by JHarkness

Thank you for bringing up those points, I failed to mention them even though they're all issues occurring here. We have the availability to attain a permit to kill deer damaging crops or forests on farmland but you're only allowed two deer per year, running a small farm, I thought of applying for it, but like the farmer in Maryland, I don't have anywhere to process the deer, nor do I really have a lot of use for it. NY has some ridiculous "deer protection laws", for example I just found out that it's illegal to shoot females under the standard permit, and yet NY State calls this their "deer population management plan".

As for the car/deer related problems, I almost had an accident the other night when a deer ran in front of my car and proceeded to stop in the middle of the road, the same night one almost ran into my car, and a couple days earlier I had to stop to wait for several dozen deer to cross the road in front me.

I can relate to feeling that the forests of the future will never be like the ones that we have seen in our life times, I remember just a decade ago how thick the undergrowth was in my forest (hobblebush, mountain maple, striped maple, serviceberry, beech and sugar maple to name a few), but the deer have almost entirely destroyed it, the only place where trees are currently regenerating are on top of high tip up mounds, and that's mostly black and yellow birch. The latter species is interesting as it once would have been extremely common in my forest, and still is in nearby forests that are inaccessible to deer, but there's only one mature tree that I currently know of, as it turns out, deer prefer yellow birch over other birches. It saddens me to see such devastating change in our forests, and to think future generations may think of it as entirely "natural", or not think of it at all.


Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:07 am
by Ranger Dan
I also have a rather large woodland tract, and have been concerned about the impact of the "deer infestation" here in central Virginia. For many years, I have been introducing a variety of native herbaceous plants, trees, and shrubs to my property. It has been necessary to protect them from deer. The results of deer exclusion have been astonishing. I now have a lush paradise loaded with plants on the forest floor. I've used and investigated a number of methods...too many to describe here, but what I've been happiest with is the large deer fence I installed several years ago. I'ts also the least expensive sturdy fence I could find, and it's nearly invisible. No deer has ever gone under or over it, and it would be impossible for them to go through it. It's 1865' long, enclosing most of a hollow through which a small stream flows.

It's made of two passes of lightweight cattle fencing (NOT welded wire), the kind with roughly 4x4" openings. I found it at my local farm supply store. It's the lightest weight cattle fencing they carry. The roll of fencing is just under 4' tall, and I placed two strips of it with a 6" gap, joined together every few feet with strips of light wire, which makes it 8' tall. At the stream exit, I installed a 4x4' tubular steel gate that can swing on hinges mounted on a horizontal pole that straddles the stream. Spacing between the tubes is just narrow enough to prevent deer passage, and it has not clogged with debris or swung open in 6 years. Gates are made of treated 1x4 planks in a "Z" configuration, closed by a spring.

It's attached to trees, simply hanging it on 16 penny nails, and with sturdy fencing staples to posts. I used ground-contact treated 4x4's, 12' long, in holes 30" deep. I rented a post hole digger, one on wheels that you can tow with a car. It takes a couple strong people to use it, but it's easier than the other motorized kind. Most of the holes I dug with a shovel, post hole digger, and tamping bar. To attach the upper strand of wire, I unrolled it on the ground and used a pole with a nail to form a "y" near the end to prop it up while I used a ladder to nail it.

Trees have fallen on it, but it's so tough and flexible, they never damaged it badly enough that the deer would go through. The damage that has occurred has been less trouble to repair than I had imagined. After removing fallen wood, usually there is little breakage of wires, and more stretching. The stretched wires can be twisted together, and patching can be done with a roll of single-strand bracing wire. In six years, I guess I've done less than an hour doing repairs. I've never had to repair using a patch of fencing.

I have visited some folks who used two or three different kids of plastic mesh deer fence, and they had complaints. It tears easily, but is not easy to repair. Deer simply go under it, so it has to be pinned to the ground in many places. It sags. It's expensive. A roll of 8'tall steel deer fence is much more expensive per foot than what I used, and would be ponderous and cumbersome to handle.

I've also used (and continue to use) 2" mesh poultry netting to enclose smaller areas, and it has been fairly durable and effective. Even the 4' tall wire will deter deer from spots as large as about 6x10'. In the area described, I formerly had 6 enclosures using 6' tall poultry netting, and only had one break-in during the growing season. Damage typically occurred during "the rut" (breeding season), when deer run into it, either poking through it or breaking down posts. But once again, the wire mesh is easily repaired. It lasts at least 10 years. I'm sure the cattle fence will last much longer.

Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:15 am
by JHarkness

While that would work quite well on a small property, I'd have to fence in roughly 50 acres of forest, and it's not remotely level terrain, parts are very rugged and steep, there are some fairly high cliffs with springs in them, it simply wouldn't be possible to do such an extensive project, placing posts would simply be impossible. That's not to mention how hard it would be to maintain it, none of it would be accessible with a vehicle and as this forest is approaching old growth status, trees are coming down left and right, and in big ways no less, the fence would be destroyed in a very short period of time. Besides, I have no interest in removing black bears, coyotes, fishers, porcupines and countless other species from my forest, the point of removing the deer, aside from forest regeneration, is to provide better habitat for them. Nor do I want to entirely remove deer from the equation, they're still an important species, without them, some species of trees and herbaceous plants might not be able to get a foot hold at all. My goal would be to remove the majority of the deer from the forest, allowing forest regeneration, creating new habitat, and also pushing the deer closer to hunters, and therefore the hunters that trespass and discharge weapons a few hundred feet from my house would also be pushed away.

It's unfortunately a very complex situation....

Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:31 am
by Ranger Dan
Yes, I, too, have too much property to protect it all. So I decided to fence in a place with the best potential for harboring a variety of species. The few acres that are enclosed serve as a reservoir of plant material which one day may populate the surrounding area once the deer explosion has ended, hopefully by a disease, or other means. My little valley is a window into the past, a refuge for rare species, a testing ground for species introductions, a delight to behold, a legacy to leave to future generations, and a respite for the soul. It's old forest, with trees over 100 years old (up to 42" dbh), but so far, 12" is the largest that has fallen on the fence.

As far as maintenance goes, much more time would be spent in my lifetime trying to eradicate deer than maintaining fence. Hunters I've begged to come have been unreliable and of no effect. I've used liquid and granular repellants, sonic devices, motion sensor devices that spray water or activate an outlet, on and on.

Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 8:06 pm
by ElijahW
Joshua, NTS,

Though most people in the northeastern US would consider the white tailed deer overpopulated in that region, “overpopulation” is a tricky term. To share a comparative example I recently heard, a car insurance company certainly would be much quicker to call the deer herds “overpopulated” than a hunter advocacy group. Environmental types also have an internal conflict: those who value trees and diverse plant habitats versus those who value the wildlife that frequently destroy those habitats (deer and hogs, mostly).

This spring, the caretakers of Smith Woods in Trumansburg, a privately owned but freely-accessed small forest preserve, erected a heavy duty fence around their roughly 32 acres. I walked through the woods recently and the herb layer has dramatically improved from previous visits. At least to my eye, Smith Woods is in way better shape than it was. Not everyone is pleased with the fence, though: ... 77b55.html.

A couple of sites I’ve written about recently, Gosnell Big Woods in Webster and Cornell Plantations, allow bow hunting on their properties, and Cornell has gone so far as to allow permitted bow hunting during a short spring season. These measures have been taken to reduce the respective deer populations within a suburban setting. Whether these kind of programs actually work, I don’t know. Are there better solutions? I don’t know that, either.

What I do know is that white tailed deer have become increasingly comfortable around humans, and humans seem to hunt them way less frequently than we did historically. That fact, combined with the elimination of large numbers of natural predators (wolves and lions) has led to where we are today. What I would like to see, being a deer hunter myself (although not a great one), is more people hunting responsibly and enjoying the natural bounty around them in the form of venison. I realize, however, that many people are opposed to hunting, for various reasons. For these folks, I’m not sure what the answer might be. Maybe someone here has better ideas?

As an aside, the spreading, geographically, of the eastern white tail has also had a negative effect on mule deer populations in the west and moose populations in the north. It’s not just humans and plants being affected.


Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:36 pm
by Don
Those of you familiar with a British group called The Moody Blues may recall the name of an album of theirs called I think "In Search of the Lost Chord". While they weren't singing about trees, they were pointing out that "'s a question of balance...", and in reading the progression of the above thread, I thought it timely to suggest that most of the above problems point to the solution as being "a question of balance'. Across probably more spectrums than we're here considering. Just one comes to mind...presettlement forest management seemed to have done a good job of finding that balance, although prior indigenous cultures relied on a moving target, 'adjusting' an area for their immediate needs, and then going on to another area, creating a chronological mosaic of plant community conditions.
Another solution might be predators, although the "Bambi" crowd might have concerns. Human hunters have been suggested, even used, but it seems that population density (both human and, in this case deer) would mitigate against that solution.
It's my sense that it all gets back to the difficulty of finding the "balance" in any location with high population density.

Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:40 am
by JHarkness
Don, Elijah,

I too, believe that there needs to be a balance, that is how our forest ecosystems evolved until we arrived and destroyed much of that balance. Personally, I wonder what would happen if other large keystone herbivores such as moose and elk were reintroduced into their former range where deer populations are very high now, would it cause more harm to forest regeneration, or would it provide competition for the deer and result in forest regeneration. An increase of predators might seem like a good idea as well, but it has it's "flaws", mainly because people don't want mountain lions or wolves roaming around in our woods because they're "too dangerous", the irony is that a lot of the people who say such things are ones who likely never step foot in the forests where these animals would have been introduced. I remember one such case near here where a mountain lion turned up in a very remote area along the NY-CT border, almost five miles from the nearest road, a hiker saw the mountain lion and reported it, and next thing I knew, the DEC had set out on a mission to locate and kill it, because it's "too dangerous", and surprise, the hunting advocacy groups were in big support of it...

I read about something interesting last night, in a number of eastern states, a mindset has been developed on deer populations known as the "Deer Industrial Complex", as it turns out, a number of eastern states (New York formerly included), have intentionally increased deer populations, why? To sell more hunting permits and make more money, of course! A mindset in such states has developed since where hunters think that more deer is better, and in many cases, they think that as they've been told that by state conservation departments. Now that some of those states are trying to do what's right and reduce the deer population, many of the hunters are revolting because it will be "too hard" for them to hunt deer with fewer around, which means less permits will be issued and less money will be made for state governments, and so the process starts over again... Apparently, one group of hunters in my area of NY recently sued the DEC because of their plan to reduce deer populations...

It's really a shame what's happened thanks to human actions and the "need" for more money...

That's all I have to add to this for now, on the aspect of deer fencing, I recently set up an experimental deer fence, not a full exclosure, just a a fence part way around a grove of hemlocks to allow regeneration where we've lost a number of the mature trees to EHS, the idea is that it makes it hard for deer to go around it, and when they do, they feel trapped by the tall black fence and don't want to hang around to eat. So far it's worked. I counted 11 white snakeroot seedlings on the "terrace" outside of the fence, all had been freshly nipped to the ground by deer, but those that were on the other side of the fence were in tact, and some new maple leaves had sprouted on several saplings, they hadn't yet been eaten while those outside of the fence had.

Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:52 am
by Lucas

Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:30 pm
by JHarkness

We do not have wild boars in New York currently, they were here years ago but they were quickly extirpated, it's possible that there are still some isolated populations, but it's doubtful. The damage to our forests is entirely from white tailed deer. While the boars may be a larger issue, the deer have completely halted forest regeneration here, here they are just as much of an issue as the boars are in other places.

Re: White Tailed Deer Damage to Northeastern Forests

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 5:05 pm
by Lucas
Since you are into eco-history, I highly recommended the below which covers your area. ... ts_in_Time

I was looking at Forests in Time: The Environmental Consequences of 1,000 Years of Change in New England. I was surprised to see Dwarf Chinkapin Oak (Quercus prinoides) listed as doing poorly on old plowed land. I would not have thought that. Maybe the DCO I seeded in an old field, last fall, will suffer for it.

also FYI ... pdf?x27388