Not so long ago, it was rare to see a deer in suburban Hanover. In 2015, more deer were taken by hunting in Hanover than in any other town in New Hampshire. Deer-car collisions are more frequent and
people commonly report groups of deer lounging in their back yards. Gardeners see shorn plants and forest landowners find browse lines. Deer consume native tree seedlings, saplings, shrubs, and wildflowers, encouraging invasive plants to take their place. Natural predators were removed by our ancestors, and the deer herd is expanding, threatening forest health.
In 2013, at the request of the Town of Hanover, we opened the Balch Hill Natural Area once again to archery for a limited season by special permit only. For 2014 and 2015, hunters were further confined to off-trail tree stands. We interviewed all of our selected hunters before and after the season and re-evaluate the policy each year. This spring, we conducted a survey of Balch Hill neighbors and friends, with a strong response rate: Balch Hill Deer Hunting Survey 2016 Responses.
See also Frequently Asked Questions, developed in response to comments. The Hanover Conservation Commission has set up a Deer Team to pursue changes in state hunting rules to better manage the town’s expanding deer population.
The Hanover Conservancy supports control of the deer herd by hunters following state laws. Beside the limited hunting at Balch Hill, hunting is permitted on the following Conservancy properties:
- Mayor-Niles Forest, Moose Mountain
- Tunis Brook Mill Lot
- Greensboro Ridge Natural Area (except south of the Silent Brook Trail)
Just how much do deer affect vegetation at Balch Hill? To find out, we are working with Dartmouth Professor Craig Layne and students in his Ecological Methods class on a long-term experiment at the Natural Area. In 2012, we erected a number of fenced “exclosures” to foil hungry deer. This chart compares the number of plants in the fenced areas (blue) to the number in places (red) where deer could reach them.