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The Institute of Ecosystem Studies recognized by the Wildlife Society

IES Deer Management Program a model for the Northeast

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

The Northeast Section of The Wildlife Society recently presented the Institute of Ecosystem Studies (IES) with a Certificate of Recognition for its Deer Management Program. The award was conferred at The Wildlife Society's 63rd Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference in Mystic, Connecticut.

Dr. John McDonald, President of The Wildlife Society's Northeast Section, commented, "Through diligence and sound science, IES has developed control methods that are indispensable to deer managers tasked with controlling deer in urban and suburban environments. Most of the established controlled hunts in the northeast have drawn from IES experience."

For over three decades, the IES Deer Management Program has been investigating the relationship between deer abundance and forest health on the Institute's 778 hectare (1,924 acre) campus. IES wildlife biologist Mr. Raymond Winchcombe has overseen the program since 1983. By assessing deer browse patterns, monitoring deer numbers, and coordinating a structured deer hunt, he strives to maintain a balance between resident deer and the forest's ability to regenerate.

Deer prefer to eat forbs, grass, and clover. During the winter, when herbaceous plants are scarce, they resort to feeding on woody vegetation. Young saplings and seedlings are vulnerable to deer browsing. By selectively feeding on the buds and branches of immature trees, deer can play a major role in shaping future forests. Preferred food resources, including important canopy trees, can disappear from the landscape while vegetation that is unappealing to the ungulate palate thrives.

A controlled hunt is the cornerstone of the IES Deer Management Program. Each year, the hunt's goals are based on a rigorous assessment of deer abundance and health, woody vegetation damage, and hunter motivation and satisfaction. The program's success has made it a model for other organizations, including the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the Massachusetts Metropolitan District Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center.

Mr. Winchcombe notes, "Our program relies on cultivating and retaining hunters who are committed to our management goals. It's not about bagging the biggest buck; it's about maintaining the deer population at a level that supports the health of both the forest and future generations of deer and other forest inhabitants. In addition to passing a firearms proficiency test and attending a pre-hunt orientation meeting, participants must be sensitive to the fact that the hunt takes place on an active research campus with numerous field sites."

To date, the IES Deer Management Program has revealed useful information about maximizing deer harvest and hunter safety, assessing vegetation response to deer control, implementing deer deterrents, evaluating how management impacts deer population health, and training and retaining a cadre of informed hunters. Findings have been published in Northeast Wildlife and the Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Proceedings.

In response to the award, IES President and Director Dr. Gene E. Likens stated, "The Deer Management Program is an important example of the knowledge that can be gained by sustained long-term research. We are honored by the recognition and hope that our findings continue to inform deer management initiatives throughout the northeastern U.S. and elsewhere."


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