Hunting season is upon us, and it’s time to don a bit of blaze orange when you’re out in the woods – your pet, too. Be safe out there – but don’t stop having fun outdoors!
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.
The NH Fish and Game Department is preparing its new ten-year plan for game management in our state. The Hanover Conservancy has submitted comment on the draft plan regarding its proposed management of deer and bear. Locally, the deer population has become a nuisance and a threat to forest health in the absence of effective predation. More flexible rules are needed to permit more response population management. The department also proposes to reduce the black bear population in our area by 28%, a figure that seems drastic. We support the department’s efforts to educate people to become more responsible neighbors to bears and to invest in habitat protection. Read the Conservancy statement.
News on the 2014 deer hunting season on Conservancy properties is now available. Be safe out there – wear your orange!