by Bill Mees, Nature Areas Committee Member

Bill Mees, longtime steward of the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary (CANS) prepared a formal statement that he presented before the Columbia City Council urging their acceptance of adding Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary to the city’s managed deer hunt schedule. After months of research, twig browse surveys, and anecdotal evidence, the Nature Areas Committee and longtime board members felt it was time to approach the city to add Bonnie View to the hunting schedule. To date, as of the time of this publication, hunting has occurred across two weeks and bowhunters have harvested 6 deer from Bonnie View. As comparison, city-sanctioned managed hunts normally result in the harvest of approximately 30 deer across all properties for an entire season. This hunter success rate and action will have a positive impact to biodiversity in and around CANS during the next growing season and into the future. 

Prepared Remarks to the Columbia City Council

September 6, 2022

I am speaking on behalf of Columbia Audubon Society.

As a member of Columbia Audubon Society, I serve as the Audubon volunteer responsible for Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary, a 28-acre property sharing its property boundary with Bonnie View.  Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary is open to the public.

The Board of Directors of Columbia Audubon Society supports the addition of Bonnie View to the city’s deer mitigation program.  A letter from Columbia Audubon dated February 22, 2022 was sent to Mike Griggs (Director of Parks and Recreation) requesting the addition of Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary to the city’s deer mitigation program.

Columbia Audubon is very concerned about the ecological damage the overpopulation of deer is causing.

  1. Deer eat shoots, sprouts, and buds of tree seedlings
  2. Deer eat the lower story and forest floor vegetation
  3. Deer dietary preferences have consequences.

Combined these reduce/eliminate tree recruitment, which is the growth of new trees that will eventually replace old and dying trees.  Dietary preferences of deer alter the composition of a forest’s tree species, damage lower story and forest floor vegetation and may completely eliminate some plant species.  These changes inevitably impact other animal species that depend on these habitats such as pollinators and birds.

The deer damage neighboring properties including the community gardens located in Fairview Park.

Statistically, car crashes make deer the deadliest animal in North America.  Scott Blvd, Fairview Rd, Rollins Rd, and Chapel Hill are all within easy access.  A deer population growing unchecked makes deer vehicle collisions inevitable.

A simulation model in Greenwich Connecticut found that “If hunting mortality was eliminated, estimated annual deer population growth would be 23% and 5-year deer population growth would be 193%.

I was at Audubon’s nature sanctuary today and saw 2 does each with a fawn.  Those does will have one or two fawns next year and so on.  It gives a new perspective to Benjamin Franklin’s comments on the miracle of Compound Interest.

The population level at which deer do not negatively influence native plants and animals and allow for natural succession of the habitat is referred to as the ecological carrying capacity.

Multiple articles site the ecological carrying capacity for White-tailed Deer in the range of 8-25 deer per 1 square mile.  A square mile is equal to 640 acres.

Fairview Park, Bonnie View NS, Columbia Audubon NS and Dublin Park combined total just over 150 acres.  This area is well beyond its ecological carrying capacity and it is only going to get worse without intervention.

All this is to say, Columbia Audubon Society and its Board of Directors request that Columbia add Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary to its Deer Mitigation program.

UPDATE: City Council voted 6-0 to add Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary to Columbia’s deer mitigation program.