The State of Massachusetts is currently well into deer hunting season, and last night at the , members of the Westford Conservation Trust were on the hunt for new knowledge as they heard from suburban deer management specialist Pat Huckery.
Huckery, the northeastern Massachusetts district director for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), spent two hours discussing the importance of controlling the deer population in areas such as Westford, where the loss of natural predators outside of man have made unbalanced deer populations highly disruptive influences on local ecosystems.
“When deer reach high densities in area such as inside Route 495 there are issues that arise such as impacts on forests, deer vehicle collisions, tickborne diseases and damage to local property,” said Huckery.
During the talk, Huckery defined the threshold for where deer can begin to do significant damage to local habitats as 20 deer per square mile, a number that is approximately twice the goal that the DFW has set for the two “Wildlife Management Zones” that cut through Westford.
However, Huckery made it clear that reducing the deer population by too much would be just as harmful to the local environment as if no hunting was done at all.
“Deer are a wonderful natural resource, it’s a keystone species,” she said. “(but) in high density, they’ll have an impact on a forest. Mice aren’t going to do that, squirrels aren’t going to do that.”
Huckery described a wide variety of methods other towns and regions in the state have kept the deer population in check while also detailing some obstacles that certain areas face, such as local bylaws that limit firearm discharge in areas where deer might be found, .
While Westford Conservation Trust president William Morton noted that he was opposed to changing Westford’s firearm bylaws, he believes that local deer overpopulation is a significant problem for the town.
“In neighborhoods (deer) are all over the place,” said Morton. “My parents live in the center of town, and they get a dozen deer they get going through their yard regularly.”
But regardless of views on the issue, the event was informational, even if it didn’t end in as much dialogue on the topic as Morton would have liked.
“Listening to some of the questions asked afterward, everything had to do with what was said, which makes me think everybody was really intently listening,” said Morton. “I just expected more discussion because it’s something everybody in town is talking about.”
The event was part of the Westford Conservation Trust’s annual meeting, where earlier in the night the organization also awarded the 2011 Conservation Trustee Award to Frank Winters and unanimously reelected the board’s officers for another year.