Deer Impacts: Positive or Negative — What do you think?
Whether you are simply enjoying a walk, taking your pet for their daily exercise, or cross country skiing through the hills of Frick Park, I can guarantee that you have spotted a deer. You stop in amazement every time as if you are seeing this animal for the first time. Especially, if there is a buck with full grown antlers or a fawn following the mother around. White-tailed deer have become so ingrained in our outdoor experiences that we tend not to dwell on their ecological role or impact. How are they positively and negatively influencing parks, forests, etc.?
Bark Guards are mesh protectants that go around the base of a tree to prevent deer and other mammals from removing the bark. This will prevent loss of moisture and exposure to weather damage.
For younger saplings or shrubs, they cannot support the weight of a bark guard, so a wire fence surrounds the entire plant. This will not stunt the growth of the plant nor allow herbivores to eat the buds.
Keystone species are animals that dramatically impact other species within the ecosystem. In other words, they help maintain balance. White-tailed deer are recognized as keystone species. They feed on grasses, fruits, acorns, woody vegetation and so on. This promotes new plant growth and the clearing of brush for sunlight to reach the forest floor. Their feces enriches the soil. An overall increase in biodiversity is observed. While it is not the most pleasant thought, deer provide food to larger predators up the food chain such as gray wolves, bobcats, and coyotes.
Deer are ‘picky eaters.’ They tend to avoid plants they do not like and devour those that they do. In doing so, a herd of deer can clear a field leading to low levels of biodiversity. Invasive species seize this opportunity and begin to grow rapidly with limited competition and no natural predators. Large deer populations that eat native seedlings stunt plant growth. Other animals that rely on these shrubs and trees for habitat, food, and mating sites are reaping the costs of increased herbivory.
Fun Facts about White-tailed Deer
•They wave their tails form side to side when they are alarmed
•When looking for food, females will leave their babies for several hours in a hiding spot
•To stay camouflaged, fawns will lay on the ground with limbs and neck outstretched
•They are capable of swimming and will utilize this skill to escape predators
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? DO YOU THINK DEER HAVE A MORE POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE IMPACT?
Jacob Orban - Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Intern