Annual Rouge Valley deer count aids in conservation

The Rouge Valley Conservation Centre is an environmentally-rich area and many events such as an annual deer count are held there to make sure it stays that way.

On Saturday afternoon approximately 25 volunteers and event coordinator, Paul Harpley, conducted a deer count of the Rouge Valley area. This is just one of the events that helps with environmental protection.

Harpley divided the volunteers into four groups to cover quadrants of the park to count the number of white-tailed deer in the area. The count is done annually when winter draws to a close in order to understand how many deer survive and to better understand them so that they may attempt to preserve their habitats and the environment they live in.

Paul Harpley discusses why the annual count of deer in the Rouge Valley area is important.

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Harpley explained what the volunteers would be looking for and recording.

“We’re looking for signs where there’s tracks of deer … we’ll probably see what we usually do: different areas of mother-yearlings kind of groups and also some actual buck groups,” Harpley said.

Third-year York University student Shenique Turner studies environmental science and says she is involved because of her passion for conserving the environment.

“I really like being outdoors and I really like participating in events like these that actually help out with environmental protection,” Turner said.

This is not the first time Turner has volunteered with the Rouge Valley.

“I volunteered with the Rouge before, so then I sent the leader an e-mail and I heard about it through there,” Turner said.

The information that the group collects is used to analyze different concerns of the conservation area. David Lawrie, program director for the Rouge Valley Conservation area, says with the information that is collected, the deer’s affect on plant life — especially endangered plant life — can be monitored.

“We get some information on the pressure on the plants within the park because we have a number of endangered plants now… The deer count helps develop management techniques so we can help protect some of the endangered or rare populations within the park,” Lawrie said.

The deer count allows Rouge Valley staff members to properly manage the ecological aspects of taking care of the area and learning about what impact, negative or positive, the deer have on the environment.

Harpley believes it is important in any area.

“White-tailed deer have a really major impact on the ecosystem wherever they are, mainly due to what they actually eat … they can have a very large impact on what they eat ecologically,” Harpley said. “Also, the predator-prey relationship between the deer and usually coyotes here has an impact.”

Harpley and Lawrie stand behind this event 100 per cent. Through this event they strongly believe that based on the information the groups gather they can determine the survivorship of the deer and the affect they have on plant life in Rouge Valley.