The Blue Hills Deer Management Program is part of DCR’s long-term effort to manage high deer densities within the Blue Hills Reservation. The primary objective and rationale for implementing a deer management program is to maintain an ecologically sustainable deer density that allows for the continuous growth and development of forest regeneration. In particular, DCR wishes to reduce the negative impacts that high deer densities have on the regenerating forest to ensure a healthy forest composed of adequate diversity of species and age classes.
Guide Blue Hills Deer Management Program
Table of Contents
2020 Hunting Program
The Blue Hills Deer Management Permitted Archery Hunt will take place Mondays through Thursdays only from November 16th through December 3, 2020. There will be no hunting on Thursday, November 26, 2020 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. There will not be a shotgun hunt in 2020. The application and selection process as well as the orientation for hunters will be virtual. Please review all information carefully whereas there may be differences from previous year hunts. Please address any questions or concerns to BlueHillsHunt@Mass.gov.
Context & Need for Deer Management
From the canopy to the understory, healthy forest ecosystems are made up of trees and plants of multiple species and age classes and the diversity of vegetation provides suitable and sustainable habitat for a rich and varied wildlife community. Forests that contain significantly high deer populations are vulnerable to excessive over-browse of young trees, shrubs, plants and other ground-cover. This excessive over-browse results in considerable negative impacts to overall forest health; including:
- reduced diversity in native plant and tree species (as deer leave behind only those species they prefer not to eat);
- increased spread of invasive plants that are resistant to deer browse;
- loss of tree species that serve as the next generation of tree canopy;
- increased susceptibility to environmental stresses, such as insect pests, severe weather-related disturbances, and climate change; and
- the destruction of vital habitat for insects, ground-nesting birds, and other wildlife.
Forests in Massachusetts are able to sustain deer densities below 20 deer/mi2. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) also promotes a statewide deer management goal of 6 to 18 deer/mi2. Several deer abundance surveys conducted over the last seven years by DCR and MassWildlife found that the Blue Hills Reservation contains deer densities in excess of this sustainable threshold. While some areas of the Blue Hills have higher densities than others, the overall density estimate for the Reservation (based on 2019 pellet count surveys) exceeds 26 deer/mi2. Details and results of deer abundance surveying in the Blue Hills can be found in the 2013 Deer Abundance Report, 2017 Deer Abundance Report, 2018 Blue Hills Deer Management Plan and the 2019 Blue Hills Deer Management Plan.
Additional Resources for Context & Need for Deer Management
Blue Hills Deer Management Plans
Deer Abundance & Annual Program Reports
2020 Application Period Now Closed
The application period for the 2020 Blue Hills Managed Hunt are now closed. Selected applicants will be notified via email.