The Potomac Highlands Watershed School
High School Environmental Forum
Final Consensus Position: Berkeley Springs HS
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At Berkeley Springs High School, students remained in their teams and wrote final position papers.
Final Position, Kelsey & Eric
The increasing deer population in West Virginia and the surrounding areas has caused severe problems and concerns regarding harvesting crops and the overall wellbeing of farms. In the Cacaponís Lost River Watershed alone there are about sixty-seven deer per square mile, or about twelve thousand deer. There are so many deer that the demand for food has greatly increased, causing deer to eat the crops of the farmers in order to survive. Something needs to be done about the increasing deer overpopulation problem affecting the farmers of West Virginia.
The increasing deer population has caused many problems to farmlands. The deer eat the crops that are planted by the farmers; this causes the bankruptcy of some farmers due to severe crop destruction. When the deer eat the crops set out by farmers, the farmers have to replant them in order to meet the quota of crops that are needed for business, and depending on the time of the season, replanting enough crops to meet the quota can be almost impossible. When the farmers have to continue to plant and replant their crops, they are constantly spending money and not receiving any in return. If this cycle continues long enough, farmers risk losing a majority of their profit for that harvest. Not only can the deer cause severe crop destruction, their persistence to find food can also cause destruction to fences and other structures. This causes more economic losses for the farmers as they are forced to repair destruction caused by the deer.
Another major factor that causes problems on farms is the disease of livestock. People do not often consider the fact that deer can carry disease, and when they come into contact with livestock, they can transfer the disease to the livestock. Although deer do not hurt livestock by using physical harm, they do hurt the livestock with the diseases they carry. Deer have become a major problem in terms of infecting healthy livestock with disease. Once the livestock has been infected by a diseased deer, the livestock no longer can profit the farmer which causes another great economic loss.
Every year, deer cause economic problems to the agriculture business. It is estimated that each year deer damage to crops and livestock causes a 35 million dollar loss to the farmers. There are ways to control these problems at least temporarily without any harm to the deer themselves. Noises and flashing lights alone can frighten a deer to an extent. Although this may only offer temporary relief from deer, it does keep them away from crops and livestock for that much longer.
Another popular method of keeping deer away from the crops is using fences. This takes the population from sixty-four deer per square mile to only sixteen deer per square mile. People can use exclusion fences that simply blockade the deer out of a certain place. These fences can be placed around the perimeter of the farm in order to keep the deer completely out of the farmland, or the fence can be placed around a particular field in order to avoid crop destruction. They can also use electric fences that are less noticeable to people, but that will keep the deer away more effectively. It will only take coming in contact with the fence one time for the deer to realize that they are not wanted in the certain fenced area around the farm. Even limiting the deer population from one small area can shift population demographics forcing the deer to adapt to new surroundings.
Farmers are being affected greatly by the overpopulation of deer in West Virginia. Since deer eat so much (about five to seven pounds of food per day), they eat quite a bit of crops. A lot of times, the deer eat high value crops which make the farmers use low value crops so as to not lose so much money. The deer have caused economic problems for farmers, but they have found ways to help eliminate some of the deer. Hopefully, some day the deer will no longer affect the farmers.
Final Position, 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," meaning that they thrive at the edge of the habitat (the woods) where cover and food are easily obtained. 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. So, while most deer live inside of the forest where the population stays under control, they have been pushed out to the edge where it has the potential to increase rapidly.
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.
Other papers pending.