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With the beginning of hunting season, we start to think about the deer, turkeys, squirrels, grouse and bears and how they survive in the woods. Timber management, or lack of management, creates a variety of conditions for the wildlife to contend with. Some conditions are good and others are not. For example; a timber cut that has been properly planned has an abundance of regeneration (small saplings and new seedlings) already established on the ground and growing prior to the cut. With the new tops on the ground after the harvest creating a “browse” and the explosion of growth on the new saplings, a lush vegetative forage is created for deer. This setting is also beneficial to other game animals because it makes a new and diverse habitat. However; if the same timber cut had not been properly prepared, after the timber harvest, there would be no saplings or seedlings established and the ground would, in a few years, be filled with ferns or undesirable plants. This type of cutting is detrimental to wildlife. It takes away their food source and creates vast openings with little or no cover.

Right now the size of our state’s deer herd is a “hot” topic. The land owners believe the herd is too large because there is too much crop damage and sapling/seedling damage. The hunters think the deer herd is too small because the number of deer they are seeing is reduced. This topic is very complex since it deals with two groups of people with different objectives. One group are people who don’t usually own the land but pay for hunting with a high license fee and expect something for their money. The other group are the land owners who have to buy or lease the land and make it produce. The land owners often view wildlife as a year-round nuisance.

Ultimately this issue can only be resolved by intense management of carrying capacity. To date, the facts concerning carrying capacity have not been well defined. For example; how many deer, squirrels and turkeys can live on one square mile of land having Dekalb soil with a north and northeast slope and still produce a continuous red oak forest?

There are ways to determine the number of deer per square mile. Then, using accumulated data, you can figure out, roughly, whether or not your land has too many deer. This information can be obtained from the Penn State Cooperative Extension which holds a work shop for any one interested in learning how to do it for themselves. I would be happy to discuss your timber lands’ options as they relate to wildlife or growing timber as a crop. For more information or to set up an appointment, give me a call.