dale – So I’ve heard, yes. The fragmented landscape of suburban and exurban Connecticut is especially attractive to deer. And it’s a good thing you were creeped out: such environments are rife with Lyme disease-carrying ticks, whose alternate hosts are white-footed mice — which flourish in fragmented landscapes — and white-tailed deer. If I had kids, I’d be afraid to let them even play outside in those kinds of places.
Ed – You’re right, I’m really not interested in trying to change minds that are already made up, but if we ever met in person, I get the feeling I’d enjoy learning more about where you’re coming from. One can always learn from one’s opponents. But blog message strings, like online bulletin boards, aren’t necessarily the best places for these kinds of discussions, I’ve found.
Giving the deer more food does nothing to change the energy-maximizing behavior pattern I mentioned above; they simply make more fawns. In the absence of predation (or intense hunting pressure), deer eat themselves out of house and home. The scientific literature is really quite clear on this point; consult the extensive bibliography in the deer forum report – which was authored by some of the most independent ecologists in the state, by the way. (Dr. Roger Latham Jr. and Dr. Bryon Shissler, for example, are both independent consultants, beholden to nobody.)
As for gamelands management, that’s a huge topic on which we very well might find some common ground, but I see no reason to doubt the PGC’s statements that the short timber rotation cycles (not to mention all those food plots) are intended primarily for the benefit of deer, turkeys and grouse, by providing abundant browse and dense cover. Whether they actually have that effect is a different question. To me, a mature oak forest provides far better habitat for all these species (a new study on grouse, for example, shows that they prefer large trees to build their nests against), but management orthodoxies die hard — and are in addition, perhaps, colored by the need for revenues from timber sales. Also, with the PGC, often enough the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, so you frequently have land managers and game wardens working at cross-purposes — and both ignoring the advice of their own ecologists. As I said, a huge topic. I think the only way to make the PGC more independent and more science-based is to change the PA Consitution to support it out of the general fund. It’s just not fair that hunter licenses be virtually the sole support for the agency given stewardship responsibility for all terrestrial wildlife. That creates a situation ripe for abuse. Every citizen of the Commonwealth — not just the 8% who hunt and fish — has a stake in the health of the ecosystem.