Nowhere To Hide

Two deer at Schenley Park, 24 March 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

17 April 2023

At the end of winter Pennsylvania’s landscape has very little cover yet wildlife still needs shelter, especially from bad weather. Normally birds and animals would hide in thick bushes and shrubs but the deer population in Schenley Park is so high that they’ve denuded the thickets, including bush honeysuckle, even though it provides them with good shelter and is not a favorite food.

Without cover the deer were easy to see in Schenley Park’s barren woods in late March. The deer pictured below was camouflaged in plain sight until it moved.

One deer camouflaged on barren hillside, Schenley Park, 24 March 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

Evergreen bushes could provide shelter but the yews have been browsed literally to death as the deer population has grown exponentially in Schenley in the past couple of years. The white backdrop at Frick Fine Arts building shows the damage typical of all yews near the park.

Deer damage on yews at Frick Fine Arts building, Univ of Pittsburgh, 17 Feb 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

Now that the honeysuckle has leafed out it’s obvious that deer have eaten their own shelter. You can see straight through these bushes at ground level.

Browseline on honeysuckle, Trough Trail Frick Park, 13 April 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

The effect of deer browse is also starkly obvious at Frick Park’s deer exclosure at Clayton East. The slideshow below gives west and north views of the fenceline, the plants growing inside the exclosure (I took a photo through the fence) and the barrens outside the fence. (I pivoted in place to show inside/outside.)

Ground-nesting birds can make a well hidden nest inside the exclosure but not outside.

The deer have eaten their own shelter as well as that of birds, rabbits and other animals in Pittsburgh’s city parks. There is nowhere to hide.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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