Photo by Steve Sullivan

Deer overpopulation is becoming a problem in the Oxford ecosystem. Deer like these are common on the Miami campus.

The University of Miami Natural Areas Committee has proposed controlled bow hunts in stands of trees to manage overpopulation of deer on the university’s 1,000 acres of woodland.

The proposal would allow hunting from November 15 until the close of deer season on February 5. Trails would remain open during hunts. The proposal was unveiled in a public Zoom meeting on May 5.

According to David Gorchov, chairman of the committee and professor of biology, research conducted in natural areas by professors and students since 2010 shows a decrease in the number of tree seedlings, saplings and wildflowers, as well as a lower species diversity. The committee identified deer as the main source of damage.

“The reason seedlings and saplings are so important is that they are the future canopy trees,” Gorchov said.

Hunters will need to complete the Ohio Hunter Education course, complete state archery requirements, and receive a letter of approval from the natural areas officer. The Butler County bag limit is three deer, no more than one with antlers.

Tree stands will be permitted in less used areas of the reservations, including south of Collins Run Creek in the West Woods, the eastern portion of the Bachelor Reservation, the Reinhart Reservation and the fenced land around the WRA cabin, as well as the terrain around the Center for Ecological Research.

This map shows the various hiking trails in the University of Miami’s natural areas. Provided by the University of Miami

“We don’t want there to be any risk to anyone using the trails,” Gorchov said. “If a hunter misses, [the arrow] goes straight into the ground, so there is no risk to people, dogs and other animals.

Signs will be posted at the start of the trails to inform visitors of the hunting season. Current rules for guests to stay on the trails will remain in effect, but no further safety measures will be needed, according to Gorchov.

“There’s no reason to wear bright orange clothes or anything,” Gorchov said. “Hunters will not be near the trails.”

Hunters are encouraged to pursue does (female deer) rather than bucks (male deer with antlers). Indeed, the number of fawn births depends more on the amount of reproduction than on males, and the behavior of females differs from that of stray males, according to Gorchov.

“Does are more territorial,” Gorchov said. “We are focused on reducing localized damage to deer.”

Gorchov said the group had been deliberating on deer population management ideas for more than a year.

AuthorThomas E. Peterson Master’s thesis as of 2018, it was estimated that, in the Miami and Hueston Woods natural areas, there were 24 deer per square mile in the spring and 16 deer per square mile in the summer. He found the most deer in Bachelor Preserve and Western Woods in Miami, with 46 and 35 deer per square mile, respectively, in the spring.

Natural spaces deer management site refers to a 2003 study which states that more than 21 deer per square mile can lead to environmental degradation.

The committee’s concern for tree regeneration intensified with the loss of ash trees as invasive emerald ash borers spread from southeast Michigan to western Ohio in the 2010s.

The Natural Areas Committee will then endeavor to control invasive shrub species, including honeysuckle. Although tree seedlings grow best away from honeysuckle, these shrubs currently protect native plants from deer browsing, according to Gorchov.

Deer activity and population will be monitored using trail cameras, fecal pellet counts and seedling growth.

The proposed plan will be reviewed by the university administration. Comments on the plan can be sent to [email protected].