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A Look at the Dangers of Too Many Deer

Jul 21, 2017 - Conservation is at the heart of hunting, and that’s especially true with deer hunting. The Izaak Walton League, founded in 1922 with a goal of defending outdoor America, takes a look at overpopulation of deer and why harvesting is crucial to managing deer numbers.

Deer season is a few months off, but it’s never too early to start thinking about conservation and why we hunt. And when it comes to deer, hunters getting clear, 150-yard shots, means that something’s amiss. More isn’t better when populations are already at capacity.

In fact, deer overpopulation is preventing new forest growth, according to a study from Cornell University. Deer prefer seeds from native plants, the study found, and this picky eating leads to loss of native vegetation and helps invasive plant species spread.

And that leads, ultimately, to a decline in native woody plants necessary for a forest to grow. 

"Deer are slowing down forest succession or natural establishment. In fact, the deer are preventing forests from establishing," said Anurag Agrawal, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said.


IWL’s Ted Williams says that our natural inclination toward “more is better” does not work in this case:


The national mindset that, with wildlife, “more is better” lingers from the early and middle 1900s when more really was better because much of our game had been depleted by market hunting. However, when wildlife is already at carrying capacity, “more” can be a disaster. Among the countless wild creatures hurt by overabundant deer are the deer themselves. Across wide expanses of their range, whitetails are sickly and scrawny.

Read Ted’s full post here.

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