Deer Management Program

After several decades of over browsing by deer in the Pleasant Hills Arboretum, the Arboretum Board decided to take action to prevent continued damage to the understory of the forest environment, a problem that is causing the failed regeneration of trees, shrubs, and plants.

Forestry experts have surveyed and reported on how the deer destruction has jeopardized the diverse and unique nature of the Arboretum. For many years, the Board has been concerned about this situation and have studied ways to respond to this deer management problem.

Last fall, the local Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer, Gary Fujak presented the Board with two deer management options to help preserve the Arboretum. The first option entailed building an eight foot fence to keep the deer out. The other choice was a program to cull the herd with a limited deer hunt. Because of the high cost of the deer fence option, the board decided to go forward with the deer bow hunt. Safety issues were addressed from the start. Plans were made to permit only a selective group of specially licensed hunters to the property in the early mornings and the evenings using archery equipment utilized from tree stands. These bow hunters were selected from members of the local police, fire, and EMS departments. Measures to inform the public of the deer management program were also implemented. Neighbors with property adjacent to the arboretum were notified of the program in advance. Additional communication to the public about the planned activity included informative signs placed at the entrances and throughout the grounds. At no time was the Arboretum property closed to the public. To coordinate the scheduling of the hunters, only one or two individual hunters were permitted to hunt in the Arboretum at a time. To comply with Pennsylvania State regulations the hunt followed the state calendar, October thru January. Officer Gary Fujak has publicly called the Pleasant Hills Arboretum deer management program a tremendous success. A number of deer were culled from the Arboretum area and some venison was donated to the local food banks. Support from the community to the program has been high. Now that the hunting season is over, additional evaluation of the program will be done by the Board of Directors and future plans to control the deer browsing, including another deer hunt next fall, will be contemplated.

Submitted by Greg Smith, Board Member