Who would ever have thought that hunters and the public would be able to say there are too many deer? Well, that’s the case. With a population that numbers somewhere between 25 and 30 million, researchers are worried that these whitetails might be doing irreversible damage to the nation’s forests.
In colonial times deer density was 10-15 per square mile. After a period of near extinction at the turn of the twentieth century, they now are packed in, nearly 35 of them per square mile. And it’s all the fault of people.
Reintroducing herds is only part of the problem. The real population boom came when farmers stopped farming and let their land turn wild. That has created the perfect habitat. Of course, dwindling numbers of hunters allows more deer to walk free at the close of each season.
With a lot more mouths to feed, deer are picking the forests bare. One wildlife professor estimates deer cause over $750 million in damage to the timber industry each year. But the big concern is deer voraciously eating new growth in forests. As older trees die off, there aren’t any saplings to take their place. Red oak, maple, white oak and ash are fine entrees for whitetail.
Whatever the solution ends up being-more hunting, sterilization, sharp shooters-this is a problem of our own making.