Deer Browse Impacts Seminar

IMG_2277.JPGby Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, MUCC

On February 9th, we held a Deer Browse Seminar to help equip cooperatives to better manage their deer herd. We had over 40 cooperative leaders in attendance. Brent Rudolph, DNR Wildlife Division, provided background on deer population levels and habitat impacts. Dave Ewert, The Nature Conservancy, shared on the importance of a balanced and diverse habitat ecology and how over browse by deer can create vulnerabilities for invasive species. Gary Roloff, Fisheries and Wildlife Department with MSU provided an over view of the high, medium and low preference plants of deer, as well as a quick run down plant identification via twigs and buds.

After Brent, Dave and Gary presented, I was able to provide an overview of conducting a deer browse impact survey. The survey is fairly simply to run, especially once you know how to identify six key plant species. Setting up one of these surveys can be a great avenue to get to know your neighbors better, as well as learn more about your habitat. Working together with a few neighbors, or having a cooperative wide survey day, you can gain a lot of knowledge and data about the sustainability of habitat use is for deer to consume, and the habitat to regenerate well.


To learn more, there are some great resources listed below. In short, landowners will be looking for the impact of deer browse on six key tree species. These species should be selected ahead of time based on their existence on the properties. The list above highlights three categories plants are placed in based on their preference to deer. Two plants from each category would be selected and evaluated on your property.

The survey should be conducted late March-early April, prior to green-up. Ideally, you would have 5 transects you would walk, each a mile long, and 100 meters apart, running parallel to each other, as so: | | | | |  To collect data, you would stop every 30 paces and at each stop, you would evaluate an area with a 4 foot radius for browse. Looking for each of the six species you selected, you would indicate on the data sheet (sample illustrated below) the browse severity on the twigs.


At the end of your survey transects, you would have some data that would provide you with an indication on how the deer are impacting your habitat.

To view the entire seminar, select the links below. 

Seminar Recordings: Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3

Presentations from the seminar


To learn more about the Deer Browse Survey, check out the article below.

QDMA Article "Over the Limit" about conducting a deer browse study


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