Duke Forest’s annual deer reduction program aims to manage population and inform research

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The 14th of the Duke Forest annual deer herd reduction program started on September 27 and will end on December 17, which means that Duke Forest’s Durham, Korstian and Blackwood Divisions will be closed on weekdays during this time.

“Reducing deer herds is an essential stewardship activity that contributes significantly to our primary goal of ensuring that the Duke Forest remains a natural asset for teaching, research and research into the future,” reads. on on the Duke Forest website.

Sara Childs, director of the Duke Forest office, stressed the “very tightly controlled and administered” nature of the hunt, explaining that “not just anyone with a hunting license can come and hunt in the Duke Forest”.

“We are working with two pre-selected and approved hunting groups,” Childs said. For the Durham and Korstian Divisions, a subset of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association (NCBA) Certification and Referral Service uses bow hunting. For the Blackwood Division, the Chapel Hill Wildlife Management Group, made up primarily of current and former Chapel Hill police officers, uses firearms as well as bow hunting.

To be eligible for the program, hunters must be in one of two groups, attend an orientation session with Duke Forest staff, sign guidelines for forest rules, sign a liability waiver, and attend a presentation on Duke Forest’s Intentions and Objectives for the Hunt.

“We know all the hunters who are out there, and we actually interacted with all the hunters who are there before they were even allowed to start out in the woods,” Childs said.

In terms of daily operations, hunters must check in and out of the forest every time they enter or leave. Childs said this tightly regulated process is cumbersome to manage, but crucial to the success and safety of the hunt.

“We have what we call a deer phone. Our administrative assistant will receive a text message in the morning that says’ I’m hunter # 25. My name is this. I’m checking that division and that 500 square foot grid cell, ”Childs explained. “So we know up to the 500 square foot grid cell where every hunter is at some point in the forest. And then when they leave the forest, this place, they check by sending an SMS or a voicemail. ”

Childs said Duke students who were North Carolina archery hunters in the NCBA’s certification and referral service had participated in previous hunts. This year, at least one current member of Duke’s staff will be in attendance.

“The reduction of the deer herd started yesterday and so far so good! We have already taken three does from the forest, ”Childs said.

Duke Forest operates as a teaching and research laboratory, so a major reason for hunting is collecting deer herd data for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program. All hunters should complete an information sheet for each deer they catch, weigh it, and collect the jawbone so biologists can age the deer, although additional measures may be needed depending on the circumstances.

“We have a lot of deer in most parts of the state, and when the deer are overabundant, they can also suffer from different diseases that cross the population,” Childs said.

“Say, for example, there is a disease called chronic wasting disease that the state agency might suspect is starting to show itself in the deer population. Then they’ll say to hunts like ours, “Oh, you’re already collecting deer data so that we can participate in this hunt. We also want you to collect this additional information about deer so that we can monitor this disease.

In the past, Duke professors and student researchers have used deer herd reduction to monitor Lyme disease in deer ticks.

“It’s a management activity to protect the health of the forest, but in many ways it’s also a research activity,” Childs said.

Childs encouraged students to look into the various research, education, work-study and volunteer activities. Opportunities that the Duke Forest has to offer. Additionally, the FAQ section of the Duke Forest website provides explanations of why the hunt should take place and other concerns. Childs noted that this year’s reduction hasn’t received much backlash from students or the University administration.

“Because we’re in our 14th year, people are now pretty used to what we’re doing,” Childs said.

However, Childs acknowledged that the closure may have more of an impact than usual due to the pandemic, as spending time in the forest has been a safe and relaxing activity for many.

“We’ve tried to do a pretty good job of explaining why it’s so important and all the considerations we’ve put in place to manage this really important activity for the forest. Once we have talked to people in depth about our connection to hunters, what training they need to take before they can hunt in the forest, how we are in contact with them every time they go hunting in the forest twice I think people are starting to really understand and feel comfortable, ”Childs said.

“The Forest staff really took into account all of these different perspectives on how people want to use the forest and maybe this is the middle ground. “


Madeleine Berger

Madeleine Berger is in her sophomore year at Trinity and editor-in-chief of academic news for the 117th volume of The Chronicle.


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