THE BOOTSTRAP ANALYSIS BLOG has an interesting report on deer browing and songbirds. "Nuthatch," the anonymous academic who writes the blog, reviews an article in a recent issue of Ibis, the journal of the British Ornithologists' Union. The article discusses the way in which browsing by deer changes ecosystems and reduces their value for songbirds. This is a concern for wildlife-friendly gardeners because, as I mentioned in a previous post, typical suburban landscaping tends to create deer habitat and thus encourage deer overpopulation. (And then gardeners complain that they have too many deer.)
In testimony to this phenomenon, Nuthatch also refers to an article that appeared earlier this month in the New York Times, which said that white-tailed deer populations have risen from 300,000-500,000 at the turn of the century (down from 20 million or more because of overhunting). According to the newspaper, there are now about 32 million white-tailed deer in the United States. Note that this is 12 million more deer than were present before the arrival of Europeans!
And of course the combination of exploding deer populations and the automobile is not a good one. A clever graphic that accompanies the article gives the annual odds of hitting a deer in the United States as anywhere from 1 in 57 to 1 in 245 in the less urban parts of the Northeast. (In other words, anywhere from 1 out of 57 drivers to 1 in 245 drivers will hit a deer during a 12-month period.) I don't know how this would translate into odds, but I know that on the short stretch of road in front of my house, at least one deer is hit and killed every year. That doesn't count the people who end up in a ditch because they swerved to avoid one.
The table of contents of the issue of Ibis is here.