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.
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.
Applications are now closed for the 2019 Blue Hills Controlled Deer Hunt.
Blue Hills Deer Management Plans
Deer Abundance & Annual Program Reports
2019 Application Period - Now Closed
In light of DCR’s commitment to long-term deer management in the Blue Hills and in order to continue the successful efforts undertaken between 2015 and 2018, DCR and MassWildlife will continue to implement controlled hunting in the Blue Hills in 2019.
Based upon the experience of implementing and assessing the outcomes of four controlled hunts and the success of controlled hunting efforts in 2018, DCR and MassWildlife have implemented a controlled hunting plan in 2019 that enhances the archery hunt and reduces the number of days and acres included in the shotgun hunt. All areas included in this year’s hunts have already been opened to either shotgun or archery hunting in prior years.
The 2019 permitted archery hunt will take place in designated areas of the Reservation on Mondays through Thursdays between November 11th and November 27th.
The 2019 controlled shotgun hunt will take place on the following two (2) days:
Tuesday, December 3rd
Thursday, December 5th
If you are a hunter that applied for this year's archery or shotgun hunts, please note that final results have not yet been released. As noted in the application instructions, all hunters selected during the permit drawing will be subject to a background check by the MA Environmental Police. This review is taking place at the moment. As soon as this review is completed, DCR will notify all hunters and will post results online. In addition, all hunters who were selected will also receive separate emails with additional information.
Thank you once again for reaching out and for your interest in DCR’s Deer Management Program for the Blue Hills Reservation.