Abstract

Title:  Managing an Ecologically Dominant Species for Ecosystem Integrity: Can it Be Accomplished for the Whitetailed Deer in Pennsylvania Forests?
Author(s): Duane R Diefenbach, Willzm L. Palmer, Willm K. Shope, and Bret D. Walling$ord
Year: 1996
Abstract: We used harvest and reproductive data to estimate deer densities during 1982-94, and 1978 and 1989 forest inventory data to estimate overwinter deer densities that would not adversely affect forest regeneration. We found that the overwinter deer density that Pennsylvania forests could support had declined, statewide, fiom 23 to 2 1 deer/259 ha of forest between 1978 and 1989. In 1994, statewide deer densities were 4 1% above the Pennsylvania Game Commission's (PGC) goal of 2 1 deed259 ha of forest. In 1995 we conducted a survey of hunters to assess their opinions about deer populations, deer management, and deer-human conflicts. The majority of hunters (44%) agreed antlerless permits should be reduced, and 19% believed they should be eliminated. The majority of hunters agreed controlling deer populations is necessary (87%), deer populations should be kept in balance with natural food supplies (89%), and that deer affect plant and animal communities (56%). However, the majority disagreed that damage to Pennsylvania forests by deer is a problem (57%), or that deer cause serious conflicts with other land uses (44%). We believe that reducing deer populations to protect forest ecosystems will require that hunters understand the adverse effects of too many deer on forest communities. However, public support will be needed during the process of public comment on establishing deer management goals and antlerless license allocations. In addition, more research is needed to address the effects of deer densities on the biological diversity of Pennsylvania's forested ecosystems.

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