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Deer Populations Are Up in New Brunswick

Recent media coverage regarding deer habitat was lacking with respect to current population data and the science that guides best practices.  As the only full-time wildlife biologist employed by a forestry company in NB, and having worked in the forests of NB for over 40 years, I can tell you that habitat for deer is a priority (one of many) for almost 140  forestry professionals as part of sustainable forest management in New Brunswick.

Despite being at the northern end of their limits, deer populations have rebounded nicely from the disastrous deep snow winters of 2008 – 09, primarily due to the last three low snow winters (2011-2013 inclusive).  Every reputable deer biologist agrees that this is the major factor affecting deer populations in northern New Brunswick, Maine and Quebec. Similarly, moose populations are at the highest levels in years, due in part to an abundant food supply created by forest harvesting.

  • DNR’s own fish and wildlife biologist Joe Kennedy confirmed in a CBC interview in September 2013 that white-tailed deer populations continued to rebound – up 15% from 2012 - reaching roughly 90,000 deer.
  • Scientific research in NB and Maine also confirms there is an abundance of food supply for deer and moose in areas that received a forest herbicide application.  Dr. Lautenschlager, a wildlife specialist, researcher, and author of numerous papers on the effects of herbicide on animal habitats and populations, writes, “Fourteen relevant studies examined the effects of conifer release treatments on moose and deer foods and habitat use. Deer use of treated areas remains unchanged or increases during the first growing season after treatment. Eight years after treating a naturally regenerating spruce-fir stand browse was three to seven times more abundant on treated than on control plots.” (Published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research).
  • On JDI freehold lands, more than 30% of the land area will either not be harvested, or have a primary management objective or function that is not timber production. This includes wetlands and watercourses, with buffers around these features; deer wintering areas; and other critical wildlife habitats such as raptor nests, animal dens, vernal pools, or areas too steep or inaccessible to operate.
  • Our voluntary Unique Areas program has been nationally recognized.  Today over 1150 unique ecological sites, totaling over 68,000 acres, have been identified on the lands we own or manage in N.B. [link to Unique Areas PDF]
  • Our professional and technical staff locates, records, and conserves unmapped streams, rare plants, stick nests, animal dens, etc. as they do their rigorous on-the-ground pre-screening that must be completed before we undertake activities on the land.
  • The truth is the area in conservation is actually increasing every day - directly as a result of the diligent effort of forestry staff.
  • The fact is that trees and vegetation grow and change over time, providing important but different types of habitat at different times and locations across the landscape. As foresters we work to ensure the biodiversity for fish and wildlife populations are sustained.
  • There is also an unfounded perception held by some people that intensively managed areas like planted stands cannot provide wildlife habitat. Here again the science and research shows us that these areas do provide excellent habitats for different species at different times. Recent studies and monitoring has shown that our planted stands provide habitat for moose, deer, lynx, pine martin, and many bird species - just to name a few - during their life cycles.  High crown closure reduces snow depth making planted stands ideal yarding areas for deer.

The most recent attacks on forest management in New Brunswick by Rod Cumberland are irresponsible and are not supported by current data and scientific research. The deer browse availability and deer population trends that Mr. Cumberland is trying to portray directly conflicts with the wealth of scientific research that has been done on this topic in this and other regions. 

I - and hundreds of professionally trained foresters, engineers, and technicians - am very proud of the work we do together to ensure our forests are managed sustainably.  We are protecting all wildlife species and maintaining clean air and water, while supporting an important sector of the economy that sustains thousands of jobs in communities across New Brunswick.  It is an everyday commitment - doing our very best with science, technology, and training - to find the responsible and sustainable balance for the environment, communities, and the economy.  We live and recreate in the rural communities in which we work and the local environment is of paramount importance to us.

We are proud of the work we do.  And we are proud of the results we have achieved – for habitat, water quality, and jobs.  Sustainability is about managing for the environment, jobs and our communities  – not one at the expense of the other.  We would be proud to show you on the ground how we are working to achieve sustainable, healthy forests.

John Gilbert
Wildlife Biologist