Date of this Version
Herbivory by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can affect forest regeneration. Typical measures to ensure forest regeneration have included physical barriers or direct manipulation of deer densities. However, altering silvicultural practices to provide abundant deer forage has not been tested thoroughly. We examined browse species preferences and changes in herbivory rates in 1–6 year old regeneration areas from 2001 to 2004 in the central Appalachians on the MeadWestvaco Wildlife and Ecosystem Research Forest in West Virginia. Woody vegetation reached the maximum plot coverage by the 4th growing season. However, the establishment of less abundant woody species, such as northern red oak (Quercus rubra),may be inhibited when browsed greater than or proportionally to occurrence. Herbivory rates declined precipitously as the amount of early successional habitat increased on our study site. We conclude that providing approximately 14% of an area in well-distributed, even-aged managed forests can have substantial impacts on reducing herbivory rates. However, management practices also should consider harvesting effects on hard mast production, habitat requirements of other species, and hardwood lumber marketability.