by Bill Browning, ARMN volunteer
Several decades ago when I started college, I had a freshman roommate named Dave from rural New Hampshire. He was studying forestry and I was studying math. He loved being outside in the woods and observing wildlife and I loved calculus.
I’ve lost track of Dave, but I’ve since gained his love for the natural world. I enjoy hiking the trails in Arlington’s parks with my dog, I’ve camped in several state forests with my family and friends, and I’ve chaperoned my share of Boy Scout and Girl Scout camping trips. Seeing my joy while being outside, my wife urged me to get a little training. In 2013 I took the ARMN Master Naturalist class and since then, I’ve been taking continuing-education classes through Audubon Naturalist Society. I am amazed at how much there is to learn.
As an ARMN volunteer, I’ve pulled invasive species, monitored streams, built educational bat caves out of trash bags, and boosted the quality of the soil in my back yard by composting. This past winter, some ARMN colleagues and I attended a conference on managing deer in urban environments. We learned that Virginia’s current deer population stands at about one million, more than twice as many as estimated to have existed at the time Captain Smith landed at Jamestown. We also learned that the average adult deer eats three to five pounds of green vegetation per day.
And then I realized what some of my Audubon instructors had been talking about: When I look through any forest or park I’m in and see a degraded understory, I know that numerous birds, insects, and other mammals have lost habitat from deer browse and are less able to contribute to a healthy ecosystem. In my stream-monitoring activities, I have learned that a degraded forest floor diminishes its ability to absorb rainfall, causing excessive runoff that adversely affects the health of our streams and the Chesapeake Bay. But perhaps my biggest revelation was that the issues around living with deer in our community are not straightforward. They are complex, and solutions are not easy.
There is a wonderful opportunity for the public to learn more about this situation from local deer experts. On October 28, 2015, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street, Arlington, VA), ARMN will welcome Kevin Rose and Charles Smith. Rose is the district biologist for Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Fairfax County; Smith is an ecologist who represents the Virginia Native Plant Society and the Deer Advisory Council for Northern Virginia. They will help us understand the relationship between growing suburban and urban communities and one of the most endearing mammals in North America. If you love our local forests and all of its inhabitants, you’ll want to hear what they have to say. The event is free and no registration is necessary. Please bring a friend or neighbor.