Swarthmore College to Continue Deer Population Management in 2014-2015
For the sixth consecutive year, Swarthmore College plans to conduct a cull of the deer population in the College's Crum Woods. This year's cull will occur, weather permitting, on select dates between December and March.
In planning for this initiative the College has once again taken extensive measures to ensure the safety of all who use the woods. Highly trained sharpshooters, who are Pennsylvania Game Commission licensed professionals, will conduct the cull at pre-approved sites. The cull will take place during times when there is little traffic in the woods. In addition, the areas in which the cull will take place will be posted with no trespassing signs for the duration of the cull and all trails on the College's property close to where the activity will take place will be marked off limits.
Since 2009, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has required that a public hunt be conducted in conjunction with any cull. Acting in accordance with this state regulation, the College will grant archery hunting rights to a select group of hunters, specifying when and where they may hunt. They will be required to hunt from tree stands, away from trails, and at least 50 yards from inhabited buildings. The hunt will occur during the College's fall and Thanksgiving breaks which fall within the state's traditional archery season that runs September through December.
In 2003, a Conservation and Stewardship Plan for the Crum Woods was completed by Natural Lands Trust and Continental Conservation. That report concluded an overabundance of deer topped the list of factors threatening the woods. Excessive deer browsing is severely limiting the ability of the forest to regenerate naturally and is altering the structure and composition of the forest. For example, deer are consuming nearly all of the native oak saplings. As old oak trees age and die, there are few younger trees left to grow and fill in the canopy and to provide habitat for other animals. Non-native plant species that are not part of the deer diet are replacing the native species in the woods.
Following the delivery of the Conservation and Stewardship Plan, the College's Crum Woods Stewardship Committee engaged in research and consultation with the campus and local communities to consider options for managing the deer population in order to restore the ecosystem of the Crum Woods. Following an extensive review process, the College concluded that the most humane, forest-science-based, and socially responsible way to manage the deer population in the Crum Woods is to cull the herd.
The results of population management measures on the health and vitality of the overall forest ecosystem are actively being studied at the College. A research-based monitoring program, designed and implemented by Roger Latham '83 of Continental Conservation (and former Swarthmore biology professor), is assessing the forest ecosystem's response to the reduced number of deer in the woods. This research primarily studies the health and number of plants in the woods with a focus on the native species that deer are most likely to consume.