The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

High School Environmental Forum

Forester POV

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Forester HHS 1st Block

By: Kristian, Lisa, Andrew


            In the past few years it has come to our attention that the forest vegetation is declining due to the overpopulation of deer. A lot of places that were cut for timber in the past 10 years have no regeneration. Those trees that were cut 20 years ago have already established their growth. If we can't find a way to control the deer then all the nutrients in the soil will disappear because the trees are being consumed.

            It has come to our attention that the deer are becoming a severe problem and something needs to be done. If the community would pull together, we could section off certain areas of the forest with deer exclosure fences. This would help prevent the deer consuming the understory vegetation of the forest. The deer exclosures will help keep parts of the forest undisturbed from deer, allowing the plants and trees to grow.

            According to David Warner (Consulting Forester), "I used to see oak and other tree seedlings surviving under the forest canopy virtually everywhere." With the help of the deer exclosure fence the oak and other tree seedlings will be able to regenerate themselves. Keeping the forest isolated will regenerate the forest and the vegetation growing there. Hopefully using this the forest will go back to what it was decades ago.


             Foresters’ View of Deer Overpopulation Damage, Petersburg High


Deer overpopulation in West Virginia is a huge and controversial problem. Farmers/homeowners, hunters, and foresters all have different views of the situation. Our paper focuses on the foresters’ point of view and how they would deal with the circumstance of deer overpopulation.

            According to West Virginia University (WVU) studies, deer population has exploded due to lack of any natural predators, such as canis lupus or the gray wolf. Lack of the deer’s predator population is the result of increased hunting and loss of usable habitat. Due to this, deer have more than quadrupled their numbers and have slowly become a modern day pest.

Loss of forest growth and edible plant life has occurred  because deer have over-grazed their usual territories. Even plants that were introduced to the wild, which deer normally avoid, have become exceedingly more rare as the population increases, and as this continues, deer continually starve to death, and the deer’s body size has actually gotten smaller over the years. Deer herds are also becoming less productive and less healthy from the lack of food.(1)

            Due to their overpopulation, the deer have eaten most of the regenerative plants that allow the forests to restore themselves.  They are also destroying various shrubs, flowers, foliage, crops, and other vegetation within the surrounding areas of their environment, and they are damaging the assortment of trees by rubbing their antlers against their bark.  The underbrush of the forests is being trampled and eaten away very quickly.(1)

            Ginseng, a widely harvested medicinal plant, is likely to become extinct over the next one hundred years, due to the increased deer population eating it in abundant amounts.  This ginseng and other herbs of the understory have dropped in population, in which case, ginseng has been added to an international list of species to be under protection.(2)

            Numerous amounts of forest creatures including the deer, squirrel, bear, and turkey use trees as a source of food.  The deer are eating away the other organisms’ sources of nourishment, forcing difficulty upon them in finding adequate nutrition.  As WVU Extension Service Wildlife Specialist Bill Grafton says, “The deer herd is already well above the carrying capacity.  They have decimated their own habitat.  Browse in woods is getting pretty scarce.  When there’s not enough in the woods to eat, they wind up moving closer to roads and gardens.”(2)

            To control this deer overpopulation issue, there are few suggestions.  An open hunting season could be allowed to hunters all year long on the doe population.  This would allow a slow decrease in the size of the various herds and their ability to repopulate.  All types of farmers also could be allowed permits to shoot the deer that trespass onto their property before their crops are destroyed.  Natural predatory animals could be reintroduced into the areas that are seriously overly bountiful in deer herds.  This would allow a more natural decrease in their population.  We could also relocate some of the deer population to other areas of the nation that have a lesser concentration of this species.


References Cited

  1. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

  2. West Virginia University


Forester POV, Berkeley Springs HS, Tommy   

The problem of deer overpopulation is almost impossible to control now that it has been set into motion.  The forest has lost a considerable amount due to the sheer growth of the deer population, yet this growth is a direct result of the forest being minimized.  Had we foreseen this issue years before our current trend of deforestation, we may not being facing this problem.
    Our forests cannot support the number of deer currently living within their boundaries.  A deer's diet consists mainly of anything they can reach - shrubs, saplings, berries - and with the massive volume of them, they are endangering other animals within the forests.  Not only are other deer dying of starvation, but so are other animals that live within the habitat.  The overpopulation causes deer to eat plants that they normally would not eat and this disrupts the habitat of animals like birds and rabbits that rely on these plants for a home.  The massive number of deer is directly resulting in the destruction of our forests and wildlife.
    Environmentalists argue however that there may not be an overpopulation of deer in the first place.  The deer have slowly lost their homes over the years and as humans invade the forests, the deer have been forced to live in smaller spaces.  In essence, the number of deer is not the problem, it is the amount of available forest.  Others say that even if there is an overpopulation, it is again due to the introduction of humans into their habitat.  Deer are "edge animals" that thrive at forest boundaries.  With the increase of urban highways, farms, and the general movement of pushing back our forests, the edge increased, sparking the increase of deer population. 
    There may not be a clear cut way in which to control the deer population.  Hunting again effects are forests and brings about the same conditions that have caused overpopulation.  It also leaves our forests littered and many natural habitats disrupted.  Many suggest that we leave the problem alone.  The ecosystem is self sustainable and past trends suggest that after mass clearings, which have happened as of late due to urbanization, the system goes through a period of shock, but through natural processes, it begins to balance itself out.  The deer have started to starve and become sick because of the lack of food available to them, which is nature doing its part to control the problem.


Kole Carlisle, Berkeley Springs HS,  Environmental Deer Forum: Forester  11/3/05

            Remember that cuddly, brown creature found strolling out of the woods recently, then only to be lying on the side of the road the next day? Well, the uncontrollable deer population has reached record levels over the past 10-15 years and that occurrence, along with numerous burdens such as decreased forest quality and dwindling farm production to the forests and peoples of West Virginia to Pennsylvania will increase if the problem is not directly addressed.

            To maintain a healthy balance within a forest, the deer population should reach no greater than 20 per square mile, studies from the Bureau of Forestry in Pennsylvania indicate. It also reveals that forests with an optimum level of 16/mile2 have the undergrowth and seedlings necessary to properly mature, all the while leaving a balanced level of deer. How is this level to be reached?

            With all the concerns over disease and crop production, many people see the problem as an immediate threat. From the farmer to the homeowner and even the other species, this widespread overpopulation of deer affects nearly everyone.

            From a forester’s point of view, this is endangering the well being of the forest and the plants and animals that call it home. The smaller, earthbound creatures see their habitat in threat also. The undergrowth in the forests in the Cacapon area to Southern Pennsylvania is being heavily destroyed, yielding little hope for the future of flora found in forests. As a result, the native plant species may be driven out of the area due to the unorthodox conditions of the past 15-20 years.

            So what can the concerned people do about this problem? Don’t get the immediate idea of going around “lessening the herd” just yet. Deer are a beautiful creature. The best alternative would be to fence in some areas (as some places have already begun) to prevent the possible destruction of the forest-and your car if your concerned.

            All in all, this topic is controversial as we will come to find out over the next few years. It is the decision of everyone to have a choice in controlling this population boom. Think this through, consult all your friends, go in the woods, enjoy nature.

The O'Neal School, Environmental Science, forester, Posted 11/08/2005

As a Forester I believe that deer should be killed off, or moved from my land. The deer are killing all of my new trees that have just started to grow. My understory is also being destroyed because the deer are eating it or because they lay on top of it, causing it to flatten out. I believe that the deer should be taken off my land so that i can go about my business of selling the wood off my property, but because the deer are eating off my profits i have no way of making a living.