Implications of large oak seedlings on problematic deer herbivoryThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Seedling herbivory by whitetail deer [Odocoileus virginianus (Boddaert)] can be a significant problem where artificial regeneration is attempted. We examined the relationship between deer herbivory and morphological traits of northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.) seedlings for two growing seasons for both browsed and non-browsed seedlings. Logistic regression analyses indicate that seedling height in each dormant season was related to terminal shoot removal (TSR) through herbivory in each of the subsequent growing seasons, 2002 and 2003 (P<0.0001 and P<0.0001, respectively). Browse line was defined as the maximum height deer attempted to browse on seedling shoots and was identified as 148 cm for the 2002 growing season. Seedlings with observed TSR in both 2002 and 2003 were 36 cm (P<0.001) smaller than seedlings with observed TSR in only one or no growing seasons. The results indicate that deer browse is inversely related to seedling size. Larger seedlings would be more likely to surpass the browse line much faster, if not at the time of planting. The cost of producing taller seedlings may be higher per capita, but higher seedling survival and the reduced need for high-density plantings may help offset the higher cost per seedling.