Park staff has been studying the effects of the deer population within our parks since 1995, and have concluded that we have more deer than our ecosystems can sustain. Experts recommend a density between 15 – 20 deer per square mile, which can sustain a healthy deer herd and wildlife habitat. Past surveys have shown that Mt. Airy Forest has endured densities as high as 145 deer per square mile.
It has been shown that densities this high cause damage to forest regeneration, wildflower survival, species diversity, and increase invasive species. Experts have shown densities over 10/sq mile result in a loss of wildflowers, over 20 we lose bird diversity, over 30 and we experience a change in forest composition. Detailed studies have shown that more than 50% of all forest wildflower species are susceptible to deer browsing. Continual browsing reduces the abundance of wildflowers and leaves only a few species that are unpalatable to colonize the forest floor.
Our urban forests face many threats to their long term survival, the top two being deer overpopulation, and invasive plants/insects. Unfortunately both seem to compound each other’s detrimental effects on forest composition.
All of the evidence gathered over 12 years (1995 – 2007) has led us to the conclusion that the population is too high, is doing great damage to our natural resources, and that the population needs to be reduced.