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Manage herbivory to promote tree regeneration: Control deer/moose impacts

Adaptation Strategies and Actions

Manage herbivory to promote tree regeneration: Control deer/moose impacts

Adaptation type: 
Land and forest stewardship or restoration


Manage herbivory to protect and promote tree regeneration


Control deer/moose impacts

Photo credit: Anthony W. D'Amato
Photo credit: Anthony W. D'Amato

Large herbivores, such as moose and deer, have always been a part of Massachusetts' landscape; however, their populations are currently far in excess of any prior period. These species often browse on seedlings, saplings, and lower branches of trees and correspondingly can strongly influence the species present and future development of a forest. They often target new growth and in some cases can adversely impact understory plant species and the survival of young trees. The browsing can be so heavy that it prevents trees from regenerating, making a forest vulnerable to disturbances since there are no young trees to take over for damaged trees. These young trees may already be under stress from drought, heat, or invasive pests and pathogens in changing climate and not able to withstand browse pressure as well.

Steps can be taken to ensure survival of these vulnerable plants. Fences can be erected in the woods to prevent browse, however, these exclosures are expensive and labor intensive to put up. Leaving tree tops whole that have fallen to the ground or been felled as a part of a timber harvest can provide enough light for seedlings to grow through, but be sheltered from browse. Hunting has also been used by landowners, state agencies, and communities as an effective tool to control local herbivore populations and ensure forest regeneration. Finally, deer repellants or physical barriers, such as plastic tubing, can be applied to individual seedlings of desired tree species to minimize browse impacts.

Scope and Constraints

Ongoing action
Moderate cost category


Forestry Goal 2: Reduce stress to forests

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