Summary of May 5, 2022 Public Meeting

Virtual public meeting on managing deer on Miami's Natural Areas

Presenters were Steve Sullivan, Director of the Hefner Museum, Thomas Crist, Chair of Biology Department and animal ecologist, and David Gorchov, Professor of Biology and plant ecologist. In addition, Brett Beatty, Ohio Division of Wildlife, Wildlife Management Supervisor, was available to answer questions. Amanda Bentley Brymer was meeting facilitator.

The meeting was hosted on Thursday, May 5, from 7 pm - 8:30 pm. The meeting was originally scheduled to end at 8 but the majority of the audience remained online for an additional half-hour of discussion based on their questions.

The meeting was attended by at least 32 people (It seemed that multiple people were often watching on a given computer.) Of those who responded to the survey, attendees represented: 5 Miami alumnus, 6 Miami employees, 4 Miami students, 11 township/county residents, 7 Oxford residents.

About 10 people posted questions or comments. Most registered with apparently real names but few entered their emails.

Most questions were generally supportive of the proposed plans and simply asked questions relative to the logistics of successfully carrying out the proposal. The major exception to this was a question about birth control which, following Dave Gorchov’s answers, was withdrawn. It seems that the majority of questions were resolved.

The following are questions that remain outstanding and should be discussed by the Natural Areas Committee.

The remaining questions are appended at the bottom of this document.

How will we sign the area during hunting to protect hikers?

One participant suggested hunter affix some kind of sign or placard to existing signage pole indicating tree stand site is active. Hunter would deploy sign when entering site, then remove when leaving.

–Good suggestion, possible downsides that will be deliberated. Some form of technology to inform folks like hunter signing in on an app could be considered; hiker can log in and see if trail is near active hunt site. Cincinnati Parks has an appt where hunters log in and know where others are, trade spots, etc. Downside of placard is that it could lead to harassment of hunter

How will we ensure that hunting stands are occupied frequently to maximize deer harvest?

One participant described a hunt in NE Ohio where each hunter was assigned access to a stand for 1 week., This allowed a maximum number of hunters during the season.

How will we advertise, recruit, and vet hunters?

Will students get be able to harvest deer? –Ohio hunting regulations, including proficiency are the current requirement. Students are eligible.

Will there be a lottery to select hunters? –We have not discussed this but will do so.

One participant suggested hunters participate in honeysuckle removal to qualify. Committee will discuss this.

Any thought to pay hunters per harvest, as incentive? –Brett Beatty explained that to be paid for hunting in Ohio, one needs to be a licensed wildlife control operator. The opportunity to hunt is incentive enough for most hunters.

Will our program result in sufficient reduction in the deer population?

Can you create enough tree stands to make a difference on numbers? –Reframing the question: Will the number of deer taken be sufficient? We think it will be. Monitoring antlered and female deer each year, monitoring deer abundance, deer damage, tree seedlings, to observe recovery.

It is concerning that the city only harvests an average 11 deer/year. Do you really think your program will make a dent? –Impact will certainly be localized. Because does are territorial, taking does is expected to reduce deer impact in local areas. Deer will move in so hunting will need to be ongoing.

What actions will we take to improve the local ecology in addition to deer reduction (such as honeysuckle control)?

Dave Gorchov’s data slides showed that honeysuckle reduced tree seedling density and diversity where deer were excluded –Dave noted:that deer do eat honeysuckle, not because it's preferred but because it's the only food left after the deer have eaten everything else. As a result, when deer are excluded from a system, honeysuckle grows well. Brett Beatty noted:that deer management without honeysuckle management and honeysuckle management without deer management will have limited benefit.

Are there any plans to also look at honeysuckle abatement in the future? –Yes, this is something volunteers can help with! If you do the honeysuckle removal while the deer are at high density, it’s detrimental to tree seedlings because those seedlings are now exposed to deer. We are more broadly planning to actively manage the Miami University Natural Areas including invasive plants. Honeysuckle is most common invasive shrub, there are others. We’ll really see the benefits if we reduce deer density first.

Are we taking appropriate advantage of the long bow hunting season; conversely, are we limiting harvest and hunters by limiting hunting to the seasons of cold, post-rut, and post-gun?

You will harvest less deer by starting hunting later in the year.

Question for Brett Beatty - Does DNR have archery harvest data by date? Something to take into consideration when considering if the number of deer taken will be sufficient- Getting within 20-30 yards post-rut isn't the easiest. –Summarizing Brett's answer and some of Dave's: You are correct; it is more difficult to hunt later in the year. However, fewer people use MUNA trails later in the year. We hope to minimize logistical challenges by hunting later in the year. We will monitor and evaluate results each year and plan to re-consider the entire plan in four years.

Would harvest of deer in the winter months, be more detrimental to their population levels? –To summarize Brett Beatty and Tom Crist: In winter, populations in wooded areas are densest. By harvesting does in winter (before May) we reduce deer populations most effectively and have the most beneficial impact on forest ecology.

How, what, and where will we collect and report deer population data?

Did you collect data from the Ecology Research Center?

Will there be an evaluation of impacts of deer management on farm crops grown at ERC or other areas?

Committee will look into what data are available; these could be used as baseline to assess change with deer management. (Follow-up: Tom Crist has a published co-authored paper that reported for plots at ERC, 43% of soybean stems had deer browse damage in early July. Jeremy Fruth and Ann Rypstra of ERC calculated that soybean yield averaged 52 bushels per acre where deer were fenced out compared to 6.75 bushes per acre in unfenced fields, with most of the loss attributed to deer.)

Has hunting liability insurance been factored in?

–Ohio has laws to protect land owners if hunters are injured during their hunting activities.

Can deer meat be donated to local food pantry (TOPPS), or is that up to the hunter? –At this point, it is up to the hunter, but this will be further discussed, as your concern is shared by our colleagues at the Myaamia Center

Issues dealing with COVID and deer

Other questions and answers

What is the reason that deer population density is generally lower in summer in the Natural Areas? –Deer are more territorial during this season, so resident deer (especially does and their offspring) will exclude other deer. These are forced to go elsewhere. Also, density rises when fawn is born. Many of these die before the next winter. Brett Beatty noted deer forage in agricultural fields and home gardens in addition to wild spaces) in summer, so deer disperse out of forests.

What was the estimated density deer population after loss of "all forest" Ohio but before loss of all deer. –We don't know if estimates are available. However, we do know that the deer population was on a steady downward trend. By 1857 the deer decline was significant enough that people were willing to pass laws to protect deer.

What is the role of predators in an ecosystem? –Predators (wolf, mountain lion) have been eliminated here. This leads to increases in deer populations and leaves humans and their activities as the most important influence on populations.

Are coyotes a significant predator? –Brett Beatty said that coyotes are not significant predators though they may take fawns; they are primarily scavengers on animals the size of deer. They do not exert significant impact on deer populations.

I notice that Butler Co. Metroparks is not listed as an entity using bow hunting to control deer. Do they do any control? If so what method is used? –There are many urban areas that use bow hunting as part of their control efforts. B.C. Metroparks has used this method. A couple other thoughts about contraception darting: requires same skills and methods as hunting, with advantage (seems to me) of not having to deal with labor-intensive disposal or rendering of animal carcass. Also, reading in media about white-tail deer being vector for COVID, eliminates requirement for hunter to handle dead animal, thus avoiding possible disease transmission. Dave Gorchov explained that both immunocontraceptive vaccines are experimental so require a controlled, permitted area. There are two drugs: One (Gonacon) requires hand injection. As a result, COVID exposure is not reduced and may be elevated. The second vaccine (PZP-based) is dartable, but requires a second dose after two weeks. The cost to administer is about $2,000/capture. Brett Beattu further noted that immunocontraceptives require deer need to be identified by individual. This is done by ear tag. These deer are not edible. Dead deer COVID exposure is logistically easier to manage than in live deer. Further answer from Brett: Data show that, in an area with connectivity to other deer populations, immunocontraception is not effective at population control.

Why 4 years between total reviews? –4 years should be enough time to gather sufficient data to inform any major changes. The MUNA committee meets regularly and will discuss this as needed at each meeting.

Has the university considered leasing? We have not considered this as we don’t have a goal of generating revenue.