If there is one thing that unites all Travis Audubon members, it is our appreciation for birds. Aside from that, our community holds a variety of beliefs and opinions– and we are quite proud of that! Recently, some of our members have expressed disappointment to hear that we allow hunting of White-tailed deer at Baker Sanctuary. We certainly respect personal positions on hunting, but also wish to elaborate on why we allow this hunting to occur.
Our Land Manager and the Steward at Baker Sanctuary, Chris Murray, has provided a succinct explanation of the ecological importance of controlling White-tailed deer populations:
Every year Baker Sanctuary closes to the public from November through mid-January for the annual White-tailed deer (WTD) management hunt. This hunt is needed primarily to remove browsing pressure on desired hardwood species such as Spanish Oak, Escarpment Black Cherry, Texas Ash, and Shin Oak, which Golden-cheeked Warblers need to provide a varied strata on which to forage for their insect prey. Due to various forms of human interventions and habitat modifications throughout the years, the WTD population in Texas, and arguably throughout many states, is at an unnaturally high level so, without management, little hardwood regeneration would occur.
In simple terms: the Golden-cheeks need a very particular habitat to successfully breed, and the deer eat the tree-seedlings that make up that habitat. Higher deer populations have a negative impact on this endangered bird’s survival outcomes. Therefore, we allow hunters to help control the deer. Indeed, it would be ideal to let nature run its course, but years of human intervention has resulted in unnatural changes to native habitat. We choose to allow hunting at Baker because it is an essential tool to preserve habitat, which is a much better place for all native wildlife to live.