DEER MANAGEMENT SERIES, NO. 7: CONCEALING A MISTAKE
Three After-the-Fact Goals were Concocted

in an Attempt to Justify Herd Reduction

By John Eveland

July 7, 2014

Once PGC's Calvin DuBrock had hired the three Chesapeake Farms students as deer managers to continue the Commission's deer-reduction policy, by 2006 three after-the-fact goals had been concocted in an attempt to justify the agency's controversial action. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the new reasons for herd reduction were: (1) to improve the health of the forest, (2) to improve the health of deer, and (3) to reduce deer/human conflicts. However, it should be remembered that the real reasons for deer-herd reduction were designed in 1998 and are two-fold: (1) for "money", as a contingency for DCNR to achieve an annual Green Certification Award from a German-based environmental organization with the ultimate intent of increasing sales of DCNR timber products throughout America and the world; and (2) for an "emotional agenda" that assumed that as the number of deer were drastically and permanently reduced, a "utopian-style" ecosystem flourishing in a biodiversity of wildflowers, songbirds, nongame mammals, and native shrubs would result. Later, the three after-the-fact goals were designed to redirect the attention of sportsmen, legislators, and the agency's own Board of Commissioners to what was hoped to be more acceptable reasons for reducing the herd.

Regarding Forest Health. After 14 years of herd reduction, there has been little to no change in the status of Pennsylvania forests. PGC's chief forester has indicated that no significant trends have been identified regarding forest tree-seedling regeneration – that regeneration might be "up" in some areas in one year and "down" the next. Long-term Penn State studies indicate that any increases in red maple seedlings and decreases in the number of red oak seedlings are due to acid precipitation, and not to deer. In fact, concludes Penn State studies, deer prefer to browse on red maple over red oak. Therefore, PGC's claim that forest health would be improved by eliminating deer is unfounded – a scientific fallacy.

Regarding Biodiversity. Of the 464 species of other birds and mammals in the state, no significant improvements have been recorded for any bird or mammal as a result of herd reduction from 2001 to the present. In fact, several species are in decline. Therefore, PGC's attempt to improve biodiversity by eliminating deer is unfounded – a scientific fallacy.

Regarding Deer Health. PGC attempted to justify herd reduction based on the supposition that deer were in poor health. However, two after-the-fact PGC surveys covering a nine-year period failed to verify the agency's belief. In fact, the surveys revealed that deer were actually in "good" health in all 22 Wildlife Management Units in every one of the nine years. That deer were not in poor health but, instead, have been and remain in good health is an excellent indicator that the forest is also in good health. Therefore, PGC's attempt to improve deer health by eliminating deer is unfounded – a scientific fallacy.

Regarding Deer/Human Conflicts: As has been written in a previous Deer Management Series article (see DMS, No. 6), PGC's three deer managers were trained at Chesapeake Farms to devise methods for reducing deer impacts to agriculture. In this regard, in PGC's 10-year deer management plan, Calvin DuBrock and his three-member Chesapeake Farms deer management team wrote: "Balancing white-tailed deer impacts is the fundamental issue affecting a majority of Pennsylvania's deer management decisions." It needs to be understood that the Game Commission's state-law mission as directed in Title 34, Section 322(c)(13) is "to serve the interest of sportsmen for recreational hunting." It is not within the job description of PGC employees to arbitrarily ignore state law and to change the chartered mission of the agency at their discretion in order to advance their personal agenda. As such, the deer-reduction program remains scientifically unfounded and a violation of state law.


 

 

 

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