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Oh, deer: JBLE environmental ensures wildlife aids mission

By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois | 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | May 31, 2017


Joint Base Langley-Eustis is comprised of roughly 11,000 acres, 8,000 of which are part of the natural forest landscape of Fort Eustis.


In charge of preserving the natural resources across those 8,000 acres, enabling mission success across the installation, is the 733rd Civil Engineer Division environmental element.


One of their most crucial roles is maintaining the deer population. This ensures the livelihood and protection of the installation’s wildlife, while also maintaining adequate training areas for U.S. Army Soldiers.


According to Alicia Garcia, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron natural resource program manager, deer are not as much of a mission impact for Langley Air Force Base.


“Langley’s landscape is completely different from Fort Eustis,” said Garcia. “Here, the landscape isn’t forested, so our primary focus is managing resources to facilitate runway operations.”


However, on Fort Eustis, if the deer population is too abundant, then the herd has the potential to wear away vegetation depleting the understory of the forest, said James Dolan, 733rd Mission Support Group wildlife biologist. This could significantly reduce food sources for the herd and other wildlife to survive, as well as diminish specific areas used for environmental training, such as land navigation.


“It is very difficult to put a price on the quality of training the Soldiers get if an area is lacking understory,” said Dolan. “But we do know from forestry, there is a price to be paid. If the deer are too overpopulated, they will destroy forestry operations such as newly planted trees or eating ornamental flowers.”


To stay in accordance with state laws and regulations, the 733rd CED works alongside the 633rd Force Support Squadron to offer recreational hunting licenses to community members, helping keep the deer population at bay.


“Hunting is the number one means of controlling the deer population, and the primary tool we use here on the installation,” said Dolan. “We try to keep the deer population to a level where degradation of the forest, whether old or new, is minimized or eliminated, so we can maintain the habitats suitable for the Army training mission.”


Even with recreational hunting each year, deer can still double their population in just one season. When the deer population becomes imbalanced, Dolan can modify management goals by adding or removing restrictions, such as antler restrictions for hunting.


As an example, Dolan explained an antler restriction during 2016 led to an abundance of male deer. As a result, their scent marking and antler rubbing destroyed approximately 80 percent of newly planted trees from a $70,000 reforestation project. To protect the newly planted trees and ensure available vegetation for the wildlife population, the antler restriction was removed.


According to Dolan, community members can ensure both their safety and that of wildlife found in populated areas by respecting their solitude.


“Just because an animal is in an unlikely spot does not make it a nuisance,” said Dolan. “It’s there for a reason. It may be an inconvenience for us but we have moved into their territory. If needed, call us and we can handle the situation.”


Another mission impact associated with wildlife overpopulation is the risk of vehicle accidents.


According to U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Griffin, 733rd Security Forces Squadron game warden, vehicle accidents involving deer are the most recorded among government-owned vehicles throughout the year. Personnel driving at night, such as security forces personnel, are among the highest at risk for an accident involving deer.


“Having government vehicles out of service due to deer collisions can limit or hinder the mission operations of military personnel,” said Griffin. “Individuals should pay extra close attention when driving at night along rural roads.”


JBLE biologists’ resource management ensures forestry sustains the military training today for successful joint missions of tomorrow.


For more information about deer management or wildlife control, call 878-4123.
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