Signs and Symptoms of Deer Impacts

When deer are having a substantial impact on the forest, recognizable signs can be detected by the trained eye.

A park-like understory with little vegetation growing in the shrub or understory layers. Browsing of any or all palatable plants that begin to grow can eliminate vegetation from the forest floor. null
An understory dominated by invasive shrubs such as barberry, multiflora rose, honeysuckle, or others. Invasive species can colonize and dominate when native vegetation is reduced or removed through deer browsing. null
An understory dominated by deer-resistant ferns. Ferns can dominate when other plants are removed through browsing. Once established, thick stands of fern shade the forest floor and can prevent seedlings from receiving sunlight necessary for growth. null
An understory dominated by native tree species less preferred by deer than other species in the forest. Examples include trees such as hop hornbeam, striped maple, and American beech. Deer browse other species, like sugar maple, ash and oaks, which allows the less preferred species to become established. American beech sprouts profusely when infected with beech bark disease and can block sunlight from reaching the forest floor. Once established, this condition can persist for decades. null
A "browse line", a visual line created by a lack of vegetation growing at a height of 5-6 feet, indicates deer have eaten everything growing within their reach. null
Obvious signs of deer browsing to seedlings or understory plants can indicate deer impacts. Browsing on species are not typically preferred by deer may indicate substantial deer impacts, as more palatable species are usually eaten first. null
A woodland with low levels of deer impact is indicated when wildflower species highly preferred by deer are present in the forest, reach greater heights and flower, or when preferred tree seedlings are able to grow beyond the reach of deer (5-6 feet). null null