|INTERVIEW with Damon Greer
Assistant Wildlife Management Supervisor, Division of Wildlife
What do you do to help manage Ohio's deer population?
I work primarily in urban areas advising park managers and other land managing groups about ways to resolve conflicts that arise from overabundant white-tailed deer.
Too many deer can lead to increased deer vehicle accidents, browse damage to garden and landscapes and ecological damage in natural areas. Options for preventing conflicts may be as simple as fencing to some form of population reduction. When local communities or parks become concerned about these issues, I am often called upon to provide assistance.
How do deer cause ecological damage?
White-tailed deer, being large herbivores, can significantly reduce or completely eliminate herbaceous plants and tree saplings from the forest understory. Many species of reptiles, amphibians, birds and small mammals are dependant on the forest understory for nesting and cover and will not survive if the habitat is lost.
Who determines if the deer population is overabundant?
Ultimately local communities decide. We use the term "cultural carrying capacity" to describe the number of deer that people will tolerate in a community or landscape. When deer populations are low, sightings are rare and people often place a high value on seeing them.
The opposite is true when populations are high. Increases in deer damage complaints and deer vehicle accident rates are usually strong indicators that the cultural carrying capacity for deer is being exceeded.
How do you control deer in urban areas?
Hunting is the primary means of controlling the deer population; however, hunting is often prohibited or restricted in urban areas. Five urban units have been established where additional deer can be harvested during hunting season, as long as hunters abide by the local restrictions in each area.
In other situations, cities may opt for sharp shooting programs which are an effective means of quickly reducing deer populations; however, they require special permits and can be expensive for communities. Deer removed through these programs can be processed into venison and donated to local food banks.
What is most challenging about your job?
The most difficult part of my job is dealing with the controversy that arises when lethal control options are employed to reduce an already overabundant deer population. By the time the deer population has become overabundant, many community members have developed very strong opinions as to their like or dislike of the deer. This strong polarization in attitudes often prevents officials from making decisions thus perpetuating the problem.