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  • CarbonCrop Team

Don't Let Deer Make a Meal Out of Your Forest: Serve Up Some Practical Pest Control

Updated: Mar 8

In this webinar CarbonCrop team member Jimmy Mackay was joined by Sam Gibson, aka SamTheTrapMan to discuss effective deer control for forests.

If you're registered for the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), it's important to manage your forest to meet the criteria and fulfil administrative obligations. Check out our blog post for more information on what you need to do to meet ETS requirements.

Implementing a pest control program can help you maintain a healthy forest, which is essential for meeting your obligations under the ETS for forest management. With CarbonCrop, you can focus on what’s important while we take care of the rest.

What’s the value of deer control in your forest?

It’s all about long term productivity.

Especially in the establishment phase of the forest, it’s key to remove the barriers (in this case the deer snacking on the forest) and provide the best conditions for the forest to grow. By ensuring that the conditions are favourable, you’re encouraging the long term sequestration potential of the forest and reaping the other benefits.

Deer will work their way through your forest from the most palatable to least palatable, and can do some serious damage. There’s two key principles for deer control:

  • One tool is never the best answer

  • Hunting on it’s own is often not enough

What happens if we don’t control deer in our native forest system?

We get a low productivity system, often a monoculture or bi-culture of species and usually softwood based (e.g. Tawa). This means less sequestration over time.

If we can implement deer control at the start, our forest develops into a diverse forest system of large species (e.g. Totora), which in 50 years will be the ones sequestering the most carbon.

If you don’t implement deer control you’re not going to get past the establishment phase into a forest that’s really sequestering as much carbon as it possibly can.

The Huruhuru Layer

The Huruhuru layer is an overlooked but incredibly important part of our forest structure because it’s the fern and small shrub species that catch the soil, enriching the humus and providing more nutrients to help the trees grow faster, which supports the sequestration of carbon.

That lower layer stores soil, water, and nutrients which supports the growth of the forest. But it’s also the most palatable part for the deer. This layer is often something overlooked when thinking about deer control, but is important for the success of the forest.

So what can we do to protect our forests?

There are a few solutions to protecting our forests from deer. As with most pest control, using a few in conjunction with each other is usually the best approach, both when considering value for money and effectiveness.

  • Deer Fencing

A permanent solution that involves building a fence around the perimeter of the forest or property to keep deer out. Requires yearly maintenance and can be costly.

  • Jump-in Traps

A movable trap that looks like two swinging gates which close after the deer have jumped in, making it effective in clearing out deer populations. Grass is an effective lure for these traps, making them ideal for reducing deer over a large landscape.

  • Helicopter Shooting

Great for large scale deer control, especially when neighbours can come together to cover multiple properties. Highly effective in conjunction with thermals, but can be expensive.

  • Thermals

A relatively cheap option that involves using equipment to detect heat signatures, allowing for the easy detection and reduction of deer numbers. One person can control a lot with this method, as it finds deer that the human eye would never see.

What does Sam recommend?

To make sure your forest grows well and is diverse enough to sequester carbon effectively, it's a good idea to fence off the area and move away from hunting deer conventionally. Keeping the deer population low or non-existent is key for your forest to thrive.

Remember, one method alone may not do the trick. Combining ground hunting, helicopter shooting, and using a thermal scope can be highly effective in achieving your goals. Ultimately, what works best for your forest depends on your budget and specific needs.


For additional pest control tips check out our previous webinar with Sam here.

If you’ve got forest, and are keen to learn what it could be worth, apply for a free land assessment today.

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