In cooperation with Cleveland State University
The impact of deer on forest ecosystems is not a new phenomenon. In 1949, Aldo Leopold said that:
“… as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer…, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades.”
Deer over-browsing adversely affects plants, but high deer densities may also alter populations of other animals and insects. This study, initiated in 2006, compares areas with high and low deer densities to determine differences in vegetative composition and structure and how these attributes relate to the diversity and numbers of creatures inhabiting the forest floor.
Various trap designs have captured small mammals such as mice, shrews, voles, moles, chipmunks and weasels as well as forest floor invertebrates including mites, centipedes, millipedes and snails.
Preliminary results show that the number of tree seedlings and saplings, leaf litter depth and soil moisture are good indicators of what mammals live on the forest floor.
Areas with high deer impact such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Brecksville Reservation have lower numbers of under-story trees, less leaf litter and dryer soils. In turn, these areas appear to have fewer small mammals and fewer invertebrates on which the small mammals feed.