What is the number one cause of mortality of deer?
Fawn starvation! What a horrific thought!
Many landowners look for ways to create more welcoming habitats for deer. Woodland habitat restoration, specifically open, airy woodlands that have been cleared of invasive shrubs and trees such as honeysuckle, buckthorn, and boxelder are places birds and animals will be able to successfully raise their families.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Managing a vibrant healthy woodland is the best way to help the deer population. Cutting out and removing invasive woody shrubs and trees is a great way to help deer. Removing invasive plants provides more sunlight and space for native shrubs and small understory trees; which can help deer feed their fawns in the late winter months when food becomes scarce. Hazelnut, shade-loving native viburnums, ironwood, and redbuds are some of the native understory woody species that can provide the tender young growth deer so desperately need as a food source late in the winter.
Fruits and berries of invasive species have little or no nutritional value for native wildlife. Invasive plants, shrubs and trees green up very early in the spring and shade out sleepy, slower-emerging native species. Deer and other wildlife can’t find sufficient shelter or hiding places within a woodland overrun with invasive species, the ground beneath invasives is often barren of any understory plants. In overgrown woodland, there are few good hiding places for female deer to tuck their fawns safely away while they search for food.
Late in the winter when browsing for food on the ground – plants hidden beneath the snow, deer rely on the tips of woody shrubs. Without proper plants, shrubs or trees to forage from, female deer can’t provide enough calories for their baby fawns. The fawns suffer from a lack of nutrition and die of starvation.
Female deer need all the nutrition and healthy calories they can eat provided by native bushes and trees. Yes, deer will nibble and browse on young saplings, but in a healthy woodland it won’t cause lasting harm to the plant population.