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.