Point Pelee National Park was closed to visitors from Jan. 6 to 20 as a safety measure while its annual deer cull took place.
The cull, which resumed in 2015, is carried out by Caldwell First Nation hunters (whose traditional territory encompasses the park) in partnership with Parks Canada. Its goal is to reduce a hyperabundant white-tailed deer population, which is threatening the park’s forest and savannah health as well as the species that depend on those habitats.
The deer in the park are over-browsing, consuming, and damaging native plants faster than they can regenerate, and threatening the health of the Carolinian Forest, which is home to many species at risk such as the red mulberry tree, eastern wood-pewee, and eastern foxsnake. Deer are also jeopardizing efforts to restore the Lake Erie Sand Spit Savannah, a globally rare ecosystem that supports 25% of the species at risk in the park, including the five-lined skink.
Studies have shown that the park can support 24 to 32 deer. Helicopter surveys estimated the herd’s numbers, prior to the cull, were from 61 to 73. Pelee’s deer are unhindered by large natural predators and warmer winters have increased food availability and improved winter survival rates.
For more on big game, click here