Deer hunts to be held at Nature Conservancy sites

The Nature Conservancy's Sunny Valley Preserve will hold a controlled deer hunt next Thursday, Nov. 19 through Dec. 9.

The management effort will be conducted only on the following weekdays: November 18, 19 and 20; Nov. 23, 24, 25; Nov. 30; Dec. 1, 2, 3; and Dec. 7 and 9.

The preserve's Rocky Hill parcel, located on Christian St. and Benson Rd., and the Silica Mine and Lake Lillinonah parcel, located on Hemlock St., and the Drumlin Hill Farm, located on Second Hill Road in Bridgewater, will be closed to the public on these days, and signs will be posted at all public entrances.

The Nature Conservancy has decided to hunt deer at these parcels because the population is well beyond the carrying capacity of the forest.

Sustained over time, these unnaturally large populations of deer have damaged the forest understory and contribute to the gradual loss of native flowering plants.

Many tree species, oaks in particular, are unable to regenerate because acorns and saplings are being eaten by the deer.

"Research shows that as few as 26 deer per square mile can prevent oak regeneration," said Adam Whelchel, Ph. D,, the Director of Conservation Science for the Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

"Healthy forests with diverse and complex understory only occur where deer are even less abundant, in the range of eight to twelve deer per square mile," he added.

The deer management effort will only take place in select areas of the preserve's interior, away from the edges of the preserve and neighboring residences.

Participating hunters will be experienced sportsmen with excellent knowledge of the preserve, and have been recruited by the staff at Sunny Valley Preserve, he said.