DEER MANAGEMENT SERIES, NO. 14:

THE BIODIVERSITY FALLACY Science Indicates that Deer

Reduction was not Justified on the Basis of Biodiversity

By John Eveland

August 31, 2014


From a 2012 news release: "Say so long to the California Department of Fish and Game and hello to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The new law makes mandatory the use of ecosystem-based management. It will move the department away from practices that appear to favor the interests of hunters and anglers. It recognizes that California is internationally known as a hotbed of biodiversity."

By 1998, the Pennsylvania Game Commission was already 14 years ahead of California. PGC's deer staff had arbitrarily eliminated the science-based, traditional "maximum sustained yield" method of game management (which had made Pennsylvania one of the top deer-hunting states in the nation), and adopted a biodiversity system called "ecosystem-based" management that favored the interests of foresters and environmentalists, especially Audubon. Quoting a recent statement by a state legislator, "They (non-hunting factions) will want a seat at the table. This was tried once before with, I believe, Cal DuBrock behind it. He also wanted to change the name from the PA Game Commission to the PA Wildlife Commission."

Regarding Biodiverstiy. PGC's board members and staff commonly state: "The Game Commission is responsible for the well-being of all 465 species of birds and mammals in the state, not just deer." One forestry-degreed commissioner claimed, "We all know that all of the state's birds and mammals are impacted by deer." On the surface, these noble-sounding statements may seem reasonable. However, at close scientific inspection, as an excuse for deer reduction they are without substance and entirely inaccurate.

There are about 400 species of birds in the state that can be divided into eight (8) taxonomic categories: (1) Loons, Grebes, Pelicans and their Allies; (2) Waterfowl (ducks and geese); (3) Raptors (vultures, hawks, and owls); (4) Upland Game Birds (turkeys, grouse, quail, pheasant, and woodcock); (5) Herons, Cranes, Shorebirds, and Gulls; (6) Pigeons and Doves; (7) Woodpeckers; and (8) Perching Birds (the songbirds). Of these 400 birds, only grouse and 18 species of songbirds (14 of which are common to the state) "might" be influenced by high deer populations, although there is no indication that any negative deer-related effects have been experienced by any of these species.

There are over 70 species of mammals in the state that can be divided into seven (7) taxonomic groups: (1) mid-sized mammals (opossum, skunks, raccoon, weasels, porcupine, and fisher); (2) small mammals (shrews, moles, bats, voles, mice, and woodrats); (3) gnawing mammals (woodchuck, chipmunks, squirrels, muskrat, and beaver); (4) predators (fox, coyotes, and bobcats); (5) cottontails and snowshoes; (6) elk; and (7) bear. Of these roughly 70 species, only the snowshoe hare "might" be influenced by high deer numbers.

In 2009, a multi-year wildflower diversity study was published by Susan Stout of the U.S. Forest Service – a staunch promoter of deer reduction. Her results indicated that plant biodiverstiy (including trilliums, Canada mayflowers, and Indian cucumber roots) had not improved 10 years following deer reduction. Would it not have been prudent to conduct this study prior to drastically reducing the deer herd?

Conclusion. Based on the biodiversity issue, there is no scientific justification for herd reduction. PGC initiated and continues to defend its deer-reduction program on three false and politically motivated assumptions – that deer health, forest health, and biodiversity (birds, nongame mammals, and wildflowers) would flourish if deer numbers were reduced. Not only has this not happened after 14 years of draconian herd reduction, it has been scientifically proven that there had never existed problems regarding deer health, forest health, and biodiversity – and especially no significant problems that had been caused by deer.

 

 

 

 

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