The Environmental Advisory Committee has been approached by a number of residents recently asking what can be done about the number of deer in the Township. The most common complaint is destruction of our landscaping, but deer create much more serious and complex issues. Although gentle and beautiful, these deer are also a menace on our roads, a quiet pillager of farms and forests and a transmitter of serious illness. What can be done about all these deer?
It’s no mystery that we have a lot of White-tailed deer. Deer thrive on ‘the edge’, with manicured lawns and gardens to browse by day, and close by to forest cover for protection and additional forage. Here, the deer have no natural predators, and are also protected from hunting. With perfect conditions for survival, population of deer has exploded in suburban neighborhoods, and their population density is now much higher than in the time before people managed the landscape. In addition to large numbers, deer are also habituated to the presence of people, so they are unafraid to wander onto our lawns and roads and tend to hang around familiar areas. Even when frightened off, they soon return.
We easily recognize the damage that deer can do to our gardens, flowers and shrubs. Deer are decimating our native wildflowers and forest understory plants and shrubs. Deer also destroy our forests, by browsing saplings and rubbing small trees, causing fatal damage. As a result, our local woodlands have no chance to sustain normal regrowth and a healthy understory. Across Pennsylvania, deer cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the forestry industry. Likewise, deer do significant damage to farms and agriculture [AJ DiNicola 2000; Managing White-tailed Deer in Suburban Environments. A Technical Guide ISBN 1-57753-296-1].
Deerstrikes with cars is another obvious concern. State Farm Insurance projects that Pennsylvanians will have more than 174,000 deer strikes this year; 1 in 52 Pennsylvania drivers will hit an animal of some sort, which is the worst in the nation. Deerstrikes occur most frequently in November and October. [https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/news/2019/10/pennsylvania-once-again-no-1-in-projected-car-crashes-with-deer-statefarm-says.html].
Finally, deer are a crucial vector in the transmission of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a potentially very serious bacterial disease, which in some cases leads to long-term and chronic illness. Although deer do not carry the Lyme bacteria, deer are the favorite host for the adult deer tick, and it is the adult deer tick that transmits Lyme disease to people and pets. It does appear that reducing deer population can reduce the frequency of Lyme disease [https://entomologytoday.org/2017/09/28/could-reducing-deer-populations-reduce-lyme-disease/].
What can be done? Managing deer is a very difficult and complicated issue. Deer are a natural part of our local environment; they are beautiful and gentle, and for visitors these may be a distinctive part of our local charm. The “Bucks” is even the mascot of our CB West High School. So we have to balance this natural attraction with the problems noted above. How can we humanely reduce or manage the deer we have? Experts suggest that community input and support is necessary for any kind of coordinated action. A series of recommendations are presented here.
- Don’t feed the deer! Feeding deer increases their reproductive success, and also brings deer into closer contact with people, creating more of the problems we want to avoid. It also teaches not to be afraid of people.
- Choose deer resistant plants and shrubs. Deer will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough, but they clearly have preferences. In particular, deer seem to like daylilies, hostas and Arborvitae. Conversely, they don’t prefer plants that are strongly scented, poisonous or prickly. A few suggestions include American Holly, Viburnum, bottle-brush Buckeye, astilbe, Echinacea (cone flower), Lambs Ear, Bee Balm and coreopsis. A qualified landscaper or nursery can make recommendations. Always consider native plants before exotics.
- Deer repellents work. Most deer repellants are odor-based and smell bad to deer. Two well regarded brands are Messina DeerStopper (a spray on liquid) and Deerscram (a powder). They are effective, and quite safe, but they have a cost, and they must be reapplied regularly, following the instructions. It requires continual ongoing effort to b most effective.
- Fences and barrier are another proven method to reduce deer browsing, but also require an active investment. Small trees should be protected with a wire mesh cage at least 1.5 feet across (or plastic tubes for saplings) until they are tall enough to survive browsing. Entire gardens can be fenced, with wire mesh but the fencing must be at least 6 to 8 feet tall. If necessary, an entire yard or field can be fenced. This is a strong permanent solution, but expensive.
- Culling (or harvesting deer) is another option but more difficult to implement. Many residents are uncomfortable with the idea of hunting deer, and hunting is not allowed on township property. In addition, deer easily move between communities, so any culling requires coordinated activity across a region. And deer quickly reproduce, so culling needs to be sustained year after year. In our area this may be a limited option, only suitable for individual hunters who can hunt, in season on private property.
In conclusion, managing deer is a complicated issue. There are a number of actions that we can all take as individual to humanely reduce the problems of deer interactions with humans and our property. However, more aggressive deer control will require a log range plan with community support, leading to coordinated and sustained actions across the region. The Doylestown EAC would be a happy to hear your feedback on this issue.
- Browns – This includes materials such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs.
- Greens – This includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
- Water – Having the right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development.
Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.
What to Compost
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Yard trimmings
- Grass clippings
- Hay and straw
- Wood chips
- Cotton and Wool Rags
- Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
- Hair and fur
- Fireplace ashes
Benefits of Composting
- Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
- Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
Information provided by https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home#basics
What is a meadow?
A meadow is an open habitat, or field, vegetated by grass and other non-woody plants. They attract a multitude of wildlife and support flora and fauna that could not thrive in other habitats. A meadow is a place of great beauty and wonder, filled with birdsong, unique flowers and plants and habitat to many animals, large and small. You might see a gold finch gathering seed down to line its nest or a bushy tailed fox pouncing in pursuit of a mouse, or a rabbit snuggled up in the reeds finding shelter from a storm. Deep blue juniper berries attract a darting catbird, milkweed flowers beckon passing monarchs, and golden rod serve as filling stations for bees and skippers. Below, beyond our sight, roots grow deep and long, filtering and storing precious rainwater, sending it deep into our aquafers.
Meadows in Doylestown Township
Doylestown Township’s Park System has many meadows, both new and old. Municipalities protect grassland and ground nesting birds and pollinators by creating meadows in open space. If you come across a a meadow and question why it is not mowed, now you know the importance of meadows and their continued management for our ecosystem.
Here is a link to help you learn more and get started:
Non-native plants are a threat to Pennsylvania. Doylestown Township’s EAC is dedicated to help residents restore native habitat one backyard at a time! For more information, view the Native Plant Four Seasons Brochure created by your EAC. Also, visit the links below.
What is a pollinator?
“A pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma). The movement of pollen must occur for the the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds, and young plants. Some plants are self-pollinating, while others may be fertilized by pollen carried by wind or water. Still, other flowers are pollinated by insects and animals – such as bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, flies and small mammals, including bats.
Insects and other animals such as bats, beetles, and flies visit flowers in search of food, shelter, nest-building materials, and sometimes even mates. Some pollinators, including many bee species, intentionally collect pollen. Others, such as many butterflies, birds and bats move pollen accidentally. Pollen sticks on their bodies while they are drinking or feeding on nectar in the flower blooms and is transported unknowingly from flower to flower resulting in pollination” (www.nps.gov/).
Importance of Pollinators
- Reproduce and produce enough seeds for dispersal and propagation
- Maintain genetic diversity within a population
- Develop adequate fruits to entice seed dispersers
For more information , visit the links below,