The research included the construction in 2010 of five 20m by 20m deer ‘pens’ to keep deer away. Honeysuckle was removed from half of each and tree seedlings did well in areas where deer were excluded and honeysuckle removed.
“Where the deer are, we lose a lot more seedlings,” he told the council and added in a later interview, “The enclosures were put in place to answer a wide range of issues. best (result) is where we exclude deer and remove honeysuckle.
He also noted, in response to a question from a council member, that deer cause significant cultivation issues, including promoting the growth of non-native earthworms.
Council member David Prytherch said he saw video taken around town of a herd of 16 to 18 deer feeding.
Gorchov said the work of the university’s natural areas committee is complemented by an ad hoc committee that has studied this specific problem and possible solutions.
Gorchov referenced the city’s deer hunting provision that allows bow hunters to hunt on specific large plots of land and said the university’s natural areas committee was considering a similar plan. With hiking trails included in most nature areas – which are also part of the Oxford region’s trail system – he said they would set hunting rules to force hunters away from areas of trails, which would also have signs.
“We looked at what we could do and took inspiration from Oxford’s plan. We need to coordinate with the City of Oxford and the Township of Oxford,” he said. “We are going to reach out to the owners of our natural spaces.”
This will include an online Zoom meeting on May 5.
The town’s environmental specialist, David Treleaven, is a member of this ad hoc committee and oversees the town’s annual Deer Management Program (DMP) hunt. The goal of the city program differs from that of the university, although the solution may be the same.
“The University of Miami is trying to preserve old-growth forests and stop damage to forest biodiversity. In 50 to 75 years, when the trees die, there will be nothing left to replace them. The Oxford program is for public safety,” Treleaven said. “It’s public safety versus habitat.”
Oxford’s schedule follows the dates of the state’s bowhunting season, although Gorchov said they are considering changing the dates somewhat to highlight vacation time when students are away.
Treleaven said the city’s program began in 2009, and the effects of the annual hunt depend not just on the number of deer harvested, but on the number those deer won’t generate.
Since 2009 and including the 2021-22 hunt, 141 deer have been harvested, 90 of which have been donated to the Community Meal Center of Hamilton to feed less fortunate county residents. The largest harvest occurred in the 2012-13 season with 25 deer caught and in 2011-12 with 20 deer harvested. The least taken were five in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 hunts.
This total of 141 deer harvested since the start of the DMP represented 3,340 pounds of venison donated.
It also meant that an estimated 15,136 deer were not born to further damage flowers and gardens or scurry through the streets causing motor vehicle accidents.
Treleaven explained that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources uses a rule of thumb showing a 70% increase in the deer population each year. Using this figure based on the 141 deer harvested since 2009 means that the current deer population that many people are complaining about is potentially reduced by that much.
Gorchov said they are planning a public consultation meeting, via Zoom, at 7 p.m. on May 5 to solicit comments and questions from residents of the city and township. Anyone interested in participating in this online meeting can go to the Natural Spaces website for the link.
Many park systems, as well as college campuses, are dealing with deer population issues with a mix of tactics. One such possibility is to introduce drugs to prevent deer births, but that is expensive, he said.