THE HISTORY: The story of Pisgah’s Deer Herd is in part a story of one of the greatest conservation successes in American history. In the early 1900’s whitetail deer populations was estimated to be at 500,000. With uncontrolled market hunting and no game laws, the once prolific big game animal of North America was in trouble. George Vanderbilt a sportsman himself protected the Pisgah herd on his estate of over 100,000 acres. By using private game watchmen the herd was managed on a large landscape area very unique for the time. When the transfer of land to the government was done in 1916 creating Pisgah National Forest the Wildlife resources was now a public resource. Shortly after in 1917 recognizing the importance of this Forest for its abundant wildlife in particular the Whitetail deer herd, Pisgah Game Preserve was formed. The goal of this preserve was to grow deer populations that would expand to naturally re-stock the surrounding areas. This became so successful by 1927 a conference was held in Asheville to how to deal with a herd that had grown to the point , that re-location to outside the State and hunting was needed to control numbers for forest and deer health. Later that year the first of many shipments of deer where taken to Ga. and Mississippi among others. In early 1930’s the first managed hunt was held in Davidson River Area. One of the first most complete scientific studies on Whitetail deer was completed in 1937. This study by Fredrick Ruff was so detailed on deer and its habitat it is still widely used today as a reference on managing deer. Today sportsman, wildlife watchers enjoy America’s most popular big game animal the Whitetail Deer. An estimated 3 million in NC alone, which feeds thousands of people and creates millions in sportsman dollars, much going back into ongoing conservation programs and jobs.
THE NEED: The once abundant Pisgah herd today is at historic low populations in Pisgah National Forest. This isn’t from disease, hunting or other predators although all this occurs, it is a habitat issue. Deer are browsers and need young shoots and twigs to feed on to supplement the fall crop of acorns. Young forest habitat is in short supply. Forest management techniques such as sustainable logging and control burning is needed to create this much needed habitat, that not only deer need, but grouse and many other species benefit from. Re-generation of mast producing trees and grass wildlife openings all need to spread across the forest to boost habitat.
YOUR HELP: Buy a Bring Back the Herd tee shirt. Public awareness is critical to inform people that you care about the Wildlife in Pisgah National Forest. $5.00 from each purchase goes to the Pisgah Conservancy for Wildlife Habitat. T-Shirts are locally screen printed on Recover Brand Shirts, made from 100% recycled material.
GET INVOLVED: The ongoing Forest Revision Plan for Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest is in its later stages. Let the Forest Service know you care about Wildlife and this Historic Deer Herd. That you support a forest that is managed for everyone and Wildlife management is compatible and much needed component of our forest and its history. When the Forest Service delivers its Alternatives for the new plan, make sure you support the one that supports Wildlife the most. Support The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council, FWCC by emailing us at Avery@citcom.net to get on our email list for meetings and alerts.