Monday, October 26, 2009

Asian Longhorned Beetle: The Next Threat to Our Forest

The following story appeared in the Smithsonian magazine.  It provides a well written and interesting account of the history and current efforts to eradicate Asian longhorned beetle in the US.  It is worth reading when you have the time.

(Smithsonian Magazine, November 2009)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hunters Sharing the Harvest

The 2009 Pennsylvania deer season is upon us! Archery started October 1st and the early muzzleloader and youth rifle season this week. The regular gun season does not begin until the Monday following Thanks Giving, November 30th. That being said, I hope many of you will consider donating all or part of your deer to help feed the hungry. This is accomplished through the efforts of Hunters Sharing the Harvest and its cooperators.

Pennsylvania's Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) is a venison donation program. Since 1991 it has channeled hunter's donations of venison to local food banks, soup kitchens, and needy families. These donations have literally provided hundreds of thousands of meals to needy Pennsylvanians. Last year HSH coordinated the delivery of nearly 200,000 meals of venison to hungry Pennsylvanians!

Hunting is the primary method of deer management in the state. Proper deer management lessens the impact of deer on forests, crops, and landscaping. Balancing deer populations with the available habitat also benefits deer by ensuring the availability of food and cover. With fewer hunters and more liberal seasons than in the past many hunters are able to harvest two or more deer.

HSH not only encourages hunters to consider donating their second or third deer of the season, but also to consider smaller donations from any deer harvested. HSH program distributes the venison to hungry people via an integrated network of meat processors and food banks. The program has called upon hunters to pay for all or part of the processing fees. These donations, combined with the financial assistance of our sponsors, are what make the entire process possible.

To find out more information about HSH go to their web site located at: or contact the Centre County Volunteer Coordinator, Dave Jackson at 814-355-4897. Listings of participating processors can be found on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s web site:

Centre County currently has just one participating butcher, Adler’s Market, located in Philipsburg. HSH continues to have a serious need for qualified participating deer processors in many areas. Any help with connecting HSH to good candidates in unrepresented areas would be appreciated!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Upcoming Webinar - Deer Impacts on Forests

Cornell Cooperative Extension will be providing a webinar on Wednesday, October 21st at noon and again at 7:00 PM entitled Deer and forests - impacts, assessment, control and recovery.  The webinar will be presented by Susan Stout and Alex Royo with the US Forest Service Northern Research Station located in Warren, Pennsylvania.  The  Forest Service Research Station has decades of research experience on deer impacts and recovery.  To view the webinars you must first register on Cornell's Forest Connect site located at:

Deer have a documented impact on the regeneration of trees and herbs, and interact with other forest processes.  Impact is a function of deer density and landscape forage availability.  At any given density impact is affected by the amount of landscape forage available.  Deer impact refers to the ability of deer to influence tree seedling numbers, species composition, and seedling height growth.  They do this by selectively browsing on understory vegetation.  In areas with high deer impact the number of seedlings is reduced, the species composition is often shifted to less valuable (palatable) species, and the surviving seedlings are generally smaller.  This relates directly to research findings indicating that when deer population numbers exceed what the land is able to support they can have a severe impact on the ability of the forest to regenerate itself.

Forage availability relates directly to the ability of the land to carry a specific population of healthy deer.  When forage is less abundant, deer eliminate preferred forage species and spread their foraging out across many more non-preferred species.  Many more plant species are browsed, and preferred plant species are much reduced in abundance or are completely eliminated.  In regions where the habitat has been severely depleted from decades of over-browsing, deer can still have a high impact on the forest even with relatively few deer per square mile.

Indicators of high deer impact include obvious browse lines; evidence of severe browsing on species that are not preferred such as American beech, striped maple, and black cherry; and understories dominated by species that deer avoid such as hayscented fern, striped maple, American beech, hophornbeam, mountain laurel, blueberry, and spicebush.  In areas with high deer impact we often see these species dominating the forest floor.  Many of us in Pennsylvania do not know what forest understories would look like with low deer impact, we have never seen that throughout our lifetimes!  The real concern is that even if deer densities are lowered are these altered plant communities semi-permanent?  They may be.

I will leave you with a quote from Dr. Gary Alt, retired PA Game Commission, "If this is not corrected it threatens our entire forest ecosystem, the health of our deer herd, and even the future of hunting as we know it."  Please tune in to the webinar.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Feral Hogs and Woodlots

The past two issues of Small Farms Quarterly (a New York State publication) ran articles/updates on feral swine (also known as feral hogs) and their impacts on forests and woodlots.  Very interesting article.  I have shared the links below.

The article indicates that there are a few thousand feral hogs in Pennsylvania found in 18 counties.  If you notice any feral hogs you are asked to contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission to report their location.

Feral hogs have traditionally only been found across the southern United States.  Beginning in 2004, 12 additional states reported populations.  These states include such northern states as Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  It has become very clear that feral hogs have no problem surviving and reproducing in the cold winter climates of the northeast.

Feral hogs have high reproductive rates and few natural predators.  Bears and coyotes rarely attack hogs due to the sows protective behavior.  This allows hogs to expand into new areas very rapidly.  They can be big problems for farmer, causing extensive crop damage.  They can also cause considerable environmental damage to forests, wetlands, riparian areas, and other aquatic ecosystems.  Their wallowing and rooting behaviors can cause extensive damage to soils, wetland vegetation, water quality (through sedimentation and nutrient loading), ground nesting birds, as well as reptiles, amphibians, and rare plant communities.  It has even been suggested that feral hog activity can adversely impact trout populations.

Landowners need to learn to recognize signs of feral hog activity.  If you observe signs, damage or the swine themselves be sure and report it to your state or USDA officials.  In Pennsylvania, the Game Commission is in charge of this program.  Government trapping and eradication programs are available.