Why Have Deer become Such a Problem in Recent History?
Would you believe that 120 years ago or so, the deer population was a lot smaller than it is today? Back then, the lower population was due to unregulated harvesting. After the 1900’s, new regulations were created to increase the population. The population recovered as large predators - such as cougars and wolves - were hunted in many areas to local extinction. Without pressures from predation, deer flourished.
Today in New Jersey alone some areas have a deer density of 112 deer per square mile! This is a staggering number when you consider that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. This far exceeds the numbers of when European settlers arrived in the Eastern America.
This overpopulation has a devastating impact to the ecosystem balance. Feeding on certain plants reduces the local abundance. Heavy grazing reduces the height, density, and diversity of the forest, which results in lowering habitat value for other animals.
Conversely, the plants deer avoid leads to a shift in plant composition, often dominated by non-native plants.
The farming and forestry impact in turn hurts the economy immensely.
Deer cause an estimated $750 million in damage alone to the U.S. timber industry annually.
There is the danger associated with automobile accidents. There have been 1.5 million reported deer and vehicle crashes in 2003 alone! This resulted in injuring 13,713 people and caused $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
All this is due to man messing with Mother Nature’s delicate balance of nature.
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Natural ResourcesConservation Service
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