Deer Management Program

We will continue deer management in fall 2019: October 1 — December 31.

Teatown’s forests are being threatened by many factors, including overabundant deer, invasive plants and insects, climate change, and urban sprawl. These issues are often interconnected such that one may occur or worsen because of the presence of another. While we must address all of these issues, research indicates that overabundant deer are the most immediate and reversible threat to forest health.

White-tailed deer are an important component of our ecosystem, aiding in nutrient cycling and providing food for larger predators. Unfortunately, over the last half century deer populations have grown beyond what the forest can support. Deer rely on native forest plants for food, so when there are too many deer, plants become scarce. As a result there are few young trees to replace an aging forest.

What does this mean for the future of Teatown’s forest? We anticipate that as our canopy trees die, native trees will not easily replace them. Instead, large openings in the forest will be filled with exotic, invasive plants. This is already happening in some areas of Teatown’s forests. If we take no action to change the course of our forests’ future, we will have a landscape dominated by invasive plants with few maturing trees.

Teatown has an adaptive deer management program which aims to reduce deer populations to densities that protect the ecological integrity and health of our preserve. The preserve continues to experience high impact to vegetation from deer indicating that the population needs to be reduced further. As a result, we will continue deer management in fall 2019 with a small, controlled bow-hunting program.

Safety is our top priority.

The top priority of any deer management program is the safety of the public.

  • Signs about deer management will be posted at all trail heads, kiosks and in the nature center.
  • Bowhunters are extensively vetted and must pass qualifications prior to participating in our programs.
  • Hunting with bows will in mornings and evenings, far from trails, buildings and roads.
  • All hunting occurs from tree stands away from trails, buildings, roads and other high activity areas.
  • Dogs must be leashed when walked at Teatown. However, hunters are made fully aware that off-leash or loose dogs are common; hunters will only shoot deer

We monitor the deer population and vegetation annually.

Teatown scientists regularly monitor the flora and fauna in our habitats, including the size of our deer herd. With regular monitoring, we can determine how effective our stewardship practices are in restoring habitats and the wildlife that rely on them.

Prior to starting deer management in 2014, Teatown’s deer population was estimated to be 70 deer per square mile. Tree and seedlings between 8 inches and 15 ft in height were incredibly rare, and wildflowers and wildlife once common in Teatown’s understory were absent or in low numbers. These trends were largely the result of an overabundant deer population. A healthy forest should be composed of multiple layers with a dense understory of seedlings and other native plants. An absence of layers in the forests provides less food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

Since deer management was initiated, Teatown’s deer population has been reduced to an estimated 40 deer per square mile. With this reduction, some positive height growth is being observed in seedlings, but deer browsing pressure is still too high to promote a multi-layered forest. Without continued deer management, growth exceeding 6 ft tall is unlikely for many species.

We will continually assess our techniques and adopt others, as appropriate.

We have thoroughly researched the various methods for deer management. Every technique has limitations, and the effectiveness of any technique can vary depending on a specific location. We consulted scientific literature, spoke with experts in the field and with other organizations that employ different management techniques. Based on these in depth discussions, Teatown has decided to focus on hunting with the use of bows as its primary deer management technique.

Research has shown that effective deer management in suburban areas requires multiple approaches and/or extended seasons. In the spirit of adaptive management, Teatown may reinstate a sharp-shoot cull strategy and/or employ other alternatives in future years to ensure that we successfully meet our goal of plant regeneration. Deer management will be an ongoing stewardship activity at Teatown.

We are deeply committed to our mission of preserving biodiversity.

Teatown’s mission is “to inspire our community to lifelong environmental stewardship.” We are deeply committed to the biodiversity of our region’s lands and forests. Ultimately, we want our forests to support a variety of plant and animal species, including a sustainable deer herd. Plant regeneration is the goal of our Deer Management Program and this will take a long term commitment to achieve.

Further reading

For more information on overabundant deer, click here.