Join the Annual Deer (Pellet) Count on April 29th!
Come one, come all to the final spring deer count and help BRFC keep the forest and their deer herd healthy while enjoying a day in the woods.
By Bob Fuller, Black Rock Forest volunteer
Ready for something fun, exciting, different, and interesting? Black Rock Forest Consortium’s deer count on Saturday, April 29 is that special opportunity. Each year, BRFC estimates the size of their deer herd through winter tracking and through citizen scientist deer counts. By using herd size estimates from the deer count and winter tracking, along with information from the fall deer hunt, BRFC staff keeps the deer herd and the forest healthy. When there are too many deer, the natural understory vegetation is eaten away, there are no wildflowers or sapling trees, and invasive plants take over. Additionally, the deer suffer from malnutrition and disease.
I participated with a group of eighteen volunteers at the first deer pellet count on Sunday, April 2 to satisfy my curiosity as to how this was done. Of course, every one of my friends either thought I was crazy or that it was an April Fool’s joke that I was going to go out and count deer pellets. The joke was on them. It’s actually a very simple survey technique that anyone who enjoys being in the woods can enjoy and successfully partake.
The key to this method is to know that deer, on average, produce 25 piles of deer pellets/day over the winter season (from mid-November when the leaves stop dropping until the April survey day). That’s almost 4,000 piles of droppings for every deer during the winter or 50,000 piles/square mile for an optimal sized herd of about 12 – 15 deer/square mile. Participants survey a series of circular segments of the forest floor for deer pellet piles while walking parallel transects that are about a mile long and 1000’ apart. Every 100’ you stop and count the pellet piles in a 4’ radius circle, but only in the circle. The key to a good count is to have lots of folks go out to survey and get lots of samples. You don’t have to be experienced, you don’t have to follow the compass bearing exactly, and the samples don’t have to be exactly 100’ apart to get good data. We had small children up through experienced hikers participating and all everyone had to do was to count only the pellet piles in their sample areas, carefully record the data, and have fun.
It’s really very simple. If 100 groups go out and survey 50 segments each (5,000 50 square foot segments = 250,000 square feet) they will have surveyed about 1% of the forest. If the group found 500 pellet piles in their samples that would be equivalent to 50,000 dropping piles/square mile for the optimal size herd. This means that each survey group, on average, would count about five piles. Our groups counted anywhere from 0 to 7 piles in their transects which equated to 0 to 35 deer/square mile depending upon where the deer congregate with an overall density of about 14 deer/square mile. The data from this survey will be combined with the April 29 survey data, winter tracking, and an FLIR (forward looking infrared) aerial survey to get the best possible estimate of the deer population.
We all had a great time and many of us hope to do this again. I hope that you to will choose to have a fun, interesting, and rewarding day in the woods helping with the April 29 survey. For more information and to register contact Brienne Cliadakis by
email or phone at 845 534 4517 x 11.