As regular readers know, there are two ongoing efforts to restore the American chestnut tree to our forests after it was virtually exterminated by disease. One cross-breeds it with resistant Chinese chestnut trees, the other uses genetic modification and is getting close to being released into the wild.
But what are they going to do about that other destroyed or young trees: deer?
White-tailed deer like to eat young trees, when they’re just starting out and are still tender and juicy. Deer have become so numerous in places that they alter the forest makeup by obliterating the undergrowth. This could be a real obstacle in attempts to resurrect the chestnut, reports a new study from the Northern Research State of the USDA:
We found that after six years, chestnuts planted in fences were 65 percent taller and 35 larger in basal diameter than chestnuts in unfenced areas. .. The competitive status of chestnuts in unfenced plots remained stagnant over time due to repeated browsing, while it increased in fenced plots over time. Our results suggest that fencing or other means of reducing herbivory will be necessary to protect planted chestnuts in areas with moderate or high deer densities.
“Other means of reducing herbivory” sounds like hunting to me.
The study is here.
Maybe we will be asked to volunteer to wrap all the chestnuts with burlap every winter. Or hang Irish Spring soap from their branches.
State F&G departments have no incentive to make rules that will lower the deer herd. Actually, the opposite is true. It’s called job security.