Six times too many deer at Short Hills

Jim Smith likes deer.

He remembers the days of his youth and the excitement of what were then rare sightings of a white tail.

These days, the 70-year-old Christmas tree farmer finds them to be a pain. They eat, damage or destroy 200 or so trees on his 50-acre farm each year. That’s about $8,000 of yearly revenue for the John Deere pensioner.

“There’s way too many,” said Smith, whose land on Orchid Hill Rd. is approximately 200 metres from a portion of Short Hills Provincial Park where, with the exception of a native hunt that has been allowed over a few weekends in the past year and a half, the deer are protected from hunting.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Smith is correct. Aerial surveys conducted by Ontario Parks over the winter show the park to be home to 296 deer — six times more than the park can sustain, ecologists say.

deer2LIn addition to the deer counted in the park, 164 were seen on adjacent land. Ontario Parks estimates by fall there will be 541 deer in or around the 1,700-acre park.

It says the park has a capacity for 45 to 50 deer.

“When I was a kid, there weren’t too many,” Smith said. “It was quite a treat when you saw one.”

Nowadays, the deer come to his property to not only eat but to give birth, he said, because of the protection provided by the ground cover of his 11,000 Christmas trees.

“In the park, there’s no cover. They’ve eaten everything off,” Smith said.

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