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Deer are killing the forests of the Blue Hills Reservation, researcher says

The Boston area's largest natural area is dying as an overpopulation of deer eat up plant species - which could also mean death to the other creatures that depend on them - Thomas J. Rawinski of the US Forest Service writes, in a report on a field trip to the reservation:

In essence, the forest is disintegrating. And because forests are defined by the dominance of trees, one must conclude that the forest at Chickatawbut Hill is dying, and has no hope of recovering unless the deer impact is lessened.

His report could add urgency to a state plan to carefully study the reservation's deer population over several years to determine whether the herds should be culled (i.e., allow hunters in).

Rawinski initially traveled from his New Hampshire office to Chickatawbut Hill to study trumpet honeysuckle, which he thought was common there, but when he couldn't find more than one patch of the plant, he began to look for another species he was interested in. And when he struck out again, he began to wonder why. Then he noticed a chain-link fence surrounding a nature center on the hill:

What I saw inside the fence astounded me! There, inside the fence, the vegetation reflected ca. 1985 conditions. I could see plant species that were now either totally absent or greatly diminished in abundance in the deer-impacted forest. I instantly recognized the scientific significance of this discovery.

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Looks like they'll need to call in some experienced hunters. [insert SARAH PALIN JOKE], lol.

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Maybe someone with closer ties to the Commonwealth can get him a huntin' license.

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There's only one solution I'm sure we can all get behind: Reintroduce wolves.

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- you know, for the revenue. ;-)

The wolves should be a godsend in dealing with the deer, which reminds me...

Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by [wolves]?
Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese
needle snakes. They'll wipe out the [wolves].
Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around,the gorillas simply freeze to death.

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Was talking one of the staff at the information center at the Breakheart Reservation, and he mentioned that this is a problem on the North Shore as well.

Have noted that, on recent wanders around Great Meadows and the Ipswich River, there seemed to be more deer around than in past years. Haven't seen any around the Mystic River reservation yet, though am sure that there have to be some.

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I don't know what the answer is, but the vets are making a fortune treating canines diagnosed with lyme disease, the deer tick carried by the deer, I lost a dog to it and it is not pretty, a slow and painful way to die.

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Walking by Pope's Pond I saw two deers on the path, a beautiful and unexpected thus magical sight. If I'd had a gun I could have shot them. But seriously, I could not have shot them but somebody else could have. The problem with hunting where lots of people hike is that some hunters are stupid and are bad shots. Maybe wolves are a better solution. But wait. We are over-run with coyotes. Should they not be held accountable?

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In parts of New York they tried female sterilization for several years with mixed results. The only thing that really works is hunting. It may not be P.C. here in MA but it provides an effective solution.

For those apposed to hunting on the grounds that it is bad for animals, just imagine all these deer, (including cute little baby deer) starving to death because there is no food. I would say that is just as bad.

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Um... anyone informed knows that hunting is necessary to control overpopulation, but thanks for your snide remark!

In addition to limited hunting, slowing the destruction of wildlife habitat is a good idea. Does anyone real need yet another Walmart or several miles of shopping plazas with the same chain stores? I doubt it.

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how do you protect the rest of the people in the Blue Hills (hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers, fishermen, etc) during a hunting season? Would you have to close the entire reservation to all non-hunters for a few weeks? Is there even any good way to limit non-hunter access to the reservation?

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How is Blue Hills any different? The only difference is historical, in that Blue Hills hasn't allowed hunting in awhile. That can easily be changed.

I just came back from a mt bike ride in Upton SF and ran into a hunter - and yes, I have my blaze orange on, though I noticed some dog walkers didn't.

Another option is allowing bow hunting, though I don't know if there would be enough kills to matter. I have no idea how many deer are taken by bow.

FWIW, I'm not a hunter.

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I think his point was that the woods and areas around Blue Hill are frequented and used all season long.

You can go 15 miles outside of the city and the woods in areas become large enough that you could hunt and never come across others. Blue Hill, I'm not so sure.

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I think his point was that the woods and areas around Blue Hill are frequented and used all season long.

And the forests out here in the boonies are used all season, too. People walk dogs, mt bike, walk, XC ski, etc.

There are large sections of Blue Hills that get very little use, even in the warmer seasons. I used to mt bike there and saw very few people, if any at all.

You can go 15 miles outside of the city and the woods in areas become large enough that you could hunt and never come across others. Blue Hill, I'm not so sure.

I'm going to have to disagree with this, at least in the areas I've been to. 15 miles takes you just outside 128 (Natick-ish) and on any day when the weather isn't horrble, you'll find someone walking around, especially on weekends (though hunting isn't allowed on Sunday).

My point is that the Blue Hills area isn't any different as other forests out in I-495 land where hunting is allowed.

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Since I'm not familiar with Upton, I have a couple of questions for you:

Is there just one way in and out of this forest?
Is the entrance posted with a warning that hunting is going on?

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Upton SF isn't even close to being as big as Blue Hills. I can think of at least 4 places where people park, with one main parking lot. The main lot has warnings about hunters, as well as one other entrance, and they strongly suggest wearing orange. The funny thing is, I have never seen a deer in there. Seen lots of tracks, especially after snow, but have never seen a deer.

I agree that Blue Hills, being as large as it is, has many access points. I'm not convinced that's a showstopper, and I think I'd be in the minority. When people aren't used to something, like hunters in their nearby forest, they generally aren't too crazy about changing that.

Do I think hunting will ever be allowed in Blue Hills? Nope.

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...but when it comes to deer today, I am solidly pro-herd-thinning. If there is a safe way to do handle hunting in areas near housing, it should be done (especially if there is some way to put the meat to use).

And The proliferation of deer ticks (and associated disease) is a threat to pets and people alike.

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They didn't have these plants before guns? The colonists reported that the landscape was overrun with game, and the rivers heaving with fish. Somehow they all got along for millions of years.

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There were also natural predators, large cats and wolves, that kept populations in check.

Wolves were beaten back to the California coast and almost went extinct.

The biggest predator of deer currently is car hoods and bumpers, and they don't take them in anywhere near the numbers to keep the population in check.

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I'd like to see a longitudinal study, taking into account other factors - weather (2010 was very unusual in many ways), other species, other regions of the reservation, human factors (hunting in backyards in Milton), habitat encroachment, other vectors of Lyme Disease (small animals, not just deer). Let's not start killing deer because of one individual's report based on three visits to a very limited portion of the Reservation.

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They are everywhere and in numbers. Out in Wellesley last weekend helping a friend move across town to a new house and a pack of deer were foraging in his backyard (this is like a quarter mile from route 9 and in a thickly settled area.) Wild Turkeys as well- "Rafters" of wild turkeys just sit in back roads and slowly move for cars as if they don't care you are there.

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