With the permission of the Select Board, the Conservation Commission opened several town properties to allow bow-hunting of deer. Deer management was deemed to be advisable after a nine-month public outreach and education process investigating the scope of the problem and exploring deer management alternatives.
Weston has triple the optimum deer density, and the burgeoning population is damaging the forest understory, causing public safety issues (deer-car collisions), and exacerbating the Lyme disease epidemic.
If deer are allowed to proliferate unchecked, Weston’s forests will lose hardwood saplings, spring wildflowers, and low growing shrubs. This impoverished ecosystem, in turn, will adversely affect numerous other wildlife species, including ground- and shrub-nesting song birds, amphibians, and insects. In addition, invasive species, which deer avoid, will proliferate and replace the browsed hardwoods.
The Importance of Bow Hunting
The Commission’s research has shown that bow-hunting is the only practicable method to manage deer in Weston. The annual hunt results in approximately 20 deer harvested on conservation land by skilled hunters who passed rigorous proficiency tests and background checks. All deer are harvested as humanely as possible. The deer harvested on public land, combined with approximately 20 deer that are harvested on private land, will have a meaningful impact on the deer population.
Furthermore, the Commission has established several vegetation monitoring programs to assess the long-term effects of deer browse on Weston’s forests:
lady slipper abundance is assessed annually, with help from the Weston garden clubs;
four deer exclosures are monitored by Brandeis University students; and
in 2014 an additional deer exclosure was installed near the Middle School for teachers and students to study the effects of deer on vegetation.