Thursday, December 7, 2017

Two Pronged Approach to Deer Management

On November 14, 2017 I presented a live webinar through our PA Forest Web Seminar Center. The webinar was entitled “Two Pronged Approach to Deer Management.” This includes improving habitat while simultaneously harvesting the appropriate number of female deer. The two are integral in managing any wildlife population, but extremely important when managing deer populations. The presentation covered specific habitat improvement practices that can be incorporated into managing natural habitat for deer. In addition, the presentation discussed how to assess the level of deer browsing impacts and use it to determine the need for antlerless deer harvests.

The one hour presentation was recorded. You can view the full recording here.

I discovered Tyler Frantz, from the Citizen’s Voice News, wrote an article based on the presentation I provided. Unfortunately, I was not consulted or interviewed for the article.Tyler must have either viewed the live webinar or listened to the recording. 

I was mis-quoted a couple of times. Especially here: “He said the key to bringing back the impressive deer herds of yesteryear is to resurrect the early succession habitat that used to dominate the landscape through select timber harvest practices.” I don’t think we can nor should we bring back the “impressive herds of yesteryear” and I NEVER recommend “select” timber harvesting, which most often end up taking the best and biggest trees and leaving the worst. I do agree that we need to have more early successional habitat/young forests on the landscape. 

But, for the most part, Tyler did a good job of capturing the main points of my presentation and I appreciate his efforts. I have provided the full article below as well as the link to the online version.

By Tyler Frantz / Published: December 3, 2017

With concurrent antlered and antlerless firearms deer season now open across the state, hunters have a decision to make.

To take a doe or let it walk has been a hot topic over the past 15 years in Pennsylvania, and many have opposing views on the right choice from a deer-population perspective.

According to Penn State Forest Resources Extension educator Dave Jackson, it really depends on the area. While extended deer seasons and increased antlerless licenses are often to blame as the sole reason for hunters seeing fewer deer, in many cases, poor habitat is a limiting factor often overlooked.

Jackson said providing quality habitat is essential for maintaining any wildlife population, and proper deer management consists of a two-pronged approach that includes improving habitat while simultaneously harvesting the appropriate number of female deer.

“Water and space is not a limiting factor in Pennsylvania, but food is a limiting factor,” Jackson said. “We can’t have more deer until we create better habitat for them to thrive. To reach their biological potential, deer need adequate nutrition, and that comes through better management of our forest resources.”

He said the key to bringing back the impressive deer herds of yesteryear is to resurrect the early succession habitat that used to dominate the landscape through select timber harvest practices.

“Mature forests create 50 to 100 pounds of browse per acre, while early succession habitat (immature forests) can provide 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of browse per acre,” Jackson said. “Instead of large scale clearing, land managers should consider cutting smaller tracts in rotating patches for greater diversity, which also creates transitional edge habitat that deer really like.

 “Forests cuts less than 10 years old are the best in terms of woody browse, forbs, shrubs and young sprouts, and they draw more deer than older forests. In 30 years, the changing understory becomes very sparse in woody browse, and that impacts the carrying capacity for deer, which are a browse-specific species.”

Jackson said it is important to regenerate mature timber through group openings, clear cuts and the release of mast producing trees, such as fruit and nut trees like apple and red or white oak. By opening up these highly desirable mast species, they can continue to provide nutritious fat content while the forest floor offers plenty of browse.

Another practice is to hinge cut low timber-value trees, such as black gum and red maple, which also appeal to deer.

This process involves cutting the trees just enough to drop them to the ground, but leaving enough of the trunk attached so they continue to produce foliage. It opens up the forest canopy while providing additional food and cover at ground level.

Other important considerations include thinning overcrowded young trees, leaving wildlife corridors for travel between harvests, “day lighting” roadways to encourage herbaceous strips to serve as linear food plots, planting conifers for thermal winter cover and controlling competing invasive vegetation.

“All of these practices can improve food and cover for white-tailed deer, but it is important to balance our deer population with the current habitat available to them,” Jackson said. “The best way to assess this is a browse impact survey to determine if more or less deer need to be harvested.

“We need to get away from measuring total deer numbers and focus more on deer impact. On average, deer eat about seven pounds of browse per day for seven months of the year, so areas with more forage can support greater deer impact and therefore larger deer densities.”

To measure browse impact in a given area, land managers can assess seedling numbers (how many are available), seedling species composition (if deer are eating non-desirables) and seedling growth height (sprouts exceeding six inches). They can then draw a conclusion on how many deer the area can adequately support.

“Obvious browse lines, mature timber stands and ferns dominating the understory are all indicators of high deer impact, and hunters should consider harvesting more female deer in these areas because the habitat simply cannot support them, while an abundance of diverse forage in the understory can support a higher deer density,” Jackson said. “It’s really a matter of carrying capacity.

“Whitetail deer are a valuable renewable resource that must be managed, but we need habitat before we can have deer. Let’s look at that instead of harping on deer numbers for a moment and understand that things change based on forest succession.”

“Most seasons and bag limits are set to increase deer populations, but deer impact forest regeneration as a function of population and forage availability. If we want to see more deer, we must first focus on regenerating food and cover for them to thrive.”

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Announcing New Invasive Plant Identification and Control Guide

Penn State Extension has released a new invasive plant identification and control guide book entitled Invasive Forest Plants of the Mid-Atlantic. The guide was prepared by Penn State Forest Biology undergraduate student Sky Templeton with editorial comments provided by Jim Finley, Penn State Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Norris Muth, Juniata College Professor of Biology, David Jackson, Penn State Forest Resources Educator, and Allyson Muth, Penn State Center for Private Forests.

The term “invasive” is used to describe a plant which grows rapidly, spreads aggressively, and displaces other native plants. They are typically non-native to the area, but have naturalized in such a way as to hinder or negatively affect the ecosystem it currently inhabits. Invasive plants degrade native environments by causing a decline in native plant species diversity. They diminish wildlife habitats for native insects, birds, and animals and threaten rare species. In addition, invasive plants have been shown to inhibit forest regeneration success and slow or retard natural succession. Once established, invasive plants require large amounts of time, labor, and money to control or eliminate.

This 72 page, full-color, guide provides in-depth practical information to help landowners and natural resource professionals identify and treat invasive plants often found in fields, forests, and woodlots. It describes 25 of the most common invasive plants found in the Mid-Atlantic region including grasses, herbs, shrubs, trees, and vines. 

Introductory methods of treatment and a general treatment calendar are provided at the beginning of each chapter. Templeton states, “It is our hope that once invasive plants are identified landowners will be better equipped to implement control measures and seek additional treatment information.” The guide also includes a glossary and resources section where you can go for additional information.

Check it out, you are sure to find at least a handful of these invaders across your lands, and they may be species you never considered to be invasive. 

The guide is available for $10.00 and can be purchased online at the Penn State Extension web address below or by calling 877-345-0691.