Maurita Holland, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
I speak for Ann Arbor’s symbol, the oak tree, shown on its stationery, documents, and doors, selected because it is a keystone species in our area, a species with disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance.
Oaks are the hub of a nature wheel, they support more than 5,000 species of insects, 58 species of reptiles and amphibians, 105 species of mammals, and over 150 species of birds that rely on them for some part of their life cycle. When oaks go, so do these associated species. Oaks create acorns, one primary native food for deer. Deer love eating new oak seedlings, and big oaks cannot replace themselves when deer densities are high. Loss of big oaks in Washtenaw County would cause massive animal suffering. A recent walk in Bird Woods showed no oak saplings—all browsed away, a generation of trees lost. That’s little surprise since a Cornell University study found no new oaks when deer density exceeds 14 per square mile, and our deer density in northwest Ann Arbor is much higher.
The cerulean warbler from South America comes to raise its young here. It depends on our mature trees, especially oaks once common in Washtenaw County. Hooded warblers migrate from Mexico and Central America to raise their young here. This species once was common in Washtenaw County but is now on the state threatened list. They seek forests with a mature canopy and a dense understory of small trees and shrubs in which to build their nests, but deer browse this understory so completely as to obliterate their nest sites, and deer even eat bird eggs when found close to the ground. I speak for our City’s symbol.
Actually, I also speak for deer, hungry deer who reproduce within 6-9 months of birth and continue reproducing until they die after 10-12 years. Contrary to myth, does, each of which has 1-3 fawns per year, will live within 1 mile of where they were born. Research shows that deer do not migrate long distances or fill vacuums. Instead, they stay in the area where they were born, doubling in population every two years. Does eat 10 lbs/day; bucks eat 15-20 lbs/day. Last winter, some actually left bloody tracks in the snow here, their mouths bleeding from eating spruce trees, one of many trees on the so-called “deer resistant list” that hungry deer eat when food is scarce.
Finally, I speak for the Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance, formed by citizens who have experience with ecology, environment, gardening, conservation stewardship and who long have participated with local and national nature organizations. Our website, wc4eb.org, grew out of the tremendous number of resources we were reading and sharing. We soon realized that we had built a resource of interest to a much wider community. In fact, our online stats show that recent visitors to our site have come from as far away as Brazil. The deer management problem stretches from Brazil to Canada. We’ve collected best practices and management plans from hundreds of states and cities that are taking back their environment from a species that has no predator and whose population, left unchecked save for deer-vehicle collisions, doubles every two years.