Project could revive deer on reservation land

Jan 11, 2014, 5:50 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The sprawling Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian reservation in the western part of North Carolina has been trying for years to bring back a cultural symbol: White-tailed deer.

Now the tribe is partnering with state wildlife agencies in a long-term project it hopes will replenish the deer population on the 56,000-acre reservation.

Over the next three years, between 25 and 50 white-tailed deer _ mostly females in small family groups _ will be relocated from Morrow Mountain State Park to the reservation, known as the Qualla Boundary.

The Cherokees will place the animals in a special habitat improved for browsing and off-limits to hunting. The program will begin this month, with biologists using darts to tranquilize the animals, collecting data on age and health, and fitting each with a tag and a radio collar.

The deer will be kept in a large pen on the reservation and closely monitored for about four weeks before being released, said Charlie Peek, spokesman for the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, one of the agencies involved in the deer relocation project.

“They asked for our help, and this is a good way to do it,” Peek said. He added that the Cherokees are paying for the cost of the project.

Cherokee Principal Chief Michell Hicks praised the project, saying its part of his administration’s efforts to protect natural resources and restore native species.

“These efforts will have lasting effects on our tribal community and on the region,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Native Americans have tried to reintroduce culturally significant animals to a reservation. Several Great Plains tribes have sought to reintroduce bison to tribal lands. Bison were plentiful on the Great Plains until the early 1800s. But by the middle part of the century, they were nearly wiped out due to widespread slaughter by white settlers during westward expansion.

White-tailed deer figure prominently in Cherokee lore and cultural traditions, illustrated by the existence of the Cherokee Deer Clan _ Anikawi _ whose members were known as fast runners and served as both hunters and messengers. The animal was once considered the tribe’s most important staple food source, and was essential to traditional clothing, arts, tools and stories. But like the bison, the deer population was nearly wiped out by white settlers.

Now there’s only a sparse population of white-tailed deer on the reservation.

But the reason has to do with habitat, said Brad Howard, a private lands program coordinator at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

The Cherokee reservation is in the Blue Ridge Mountain range _ a picturesque area with fast-moving streams and deep forests. While the natural beauty is good for tourism, it doesn’t always translate into a thriving deer population.

“Contrary to most people’s perception, the forest is not actually the best deer habitat,” Howard said. “People think that deer live in the woods. Well, truthfully, deer live on the edge of the woods, where there are fields and early stage vegetation. Deer need to have a lot of food at their height.”

White-tailed deer will eat many green-leaved plants and fruits. One of their most important food sources: Acorns.

“If you look in the forest, there’s not necessarily, other than the acorns that fall from the trees every fall, a lot of food at the deer’s height compared to, let’s say, in the fields,” Howard said. “That’s good deer habitat. That’s where the deer are the most productive.”

The Cherokees for the last few years have been trying to augment the reservations white-tailed deer population _ even suggesting bringing in deer from other states. But state wildlife officials said that wasn’t a good idea, Howard said.

“This is a much better process. It’s a more biologically sound process to use native white-tailed deer. That’s the path we are on now,” he said.

Still, it’s going to take some time for the population to come back.

“It’s a slow process. Just putting deer out won’t get you what you need. You got to do that habitat work. You got to make available habitat for the deer and that’s what they’re doing,” he said.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Geneva, Fla., resident Joe Shaw, top, navigates his flooded street, Whitcomb Drive, Tuesday, Oct. 4...
Associated Press

Florida’s island dwellers digging out from Ian’s destruction

ST. JAMES CITY, Fla. (AP) — Following Hurricane Ian’s destruction, many residents on one Florida island have stayed put for days without electricity and other resources while hoping the lone bridge to the mainland is repaired. Pine Island, the largest barrier island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, has been largely cut off from the outside world […]
9 hours ago
FILE - People stand on the destroyed bridge to Pine Island as they view the damage in the aftermath...
Associated Press

Biden to focus on hurricane victims in Florida, not politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will visit hurricane-ravaged Florida with a pledge that federal, state and local governments will work as one to help rebuild homes, businesses and lives — putting politics on mute for now to focus on those in need. Hurricane Ian has resulted in at least 84 people confirmed dead, including […]
9 hours ago
Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor Tim Michels speaks during a campaign stop at a bar on T...
Associated Press

In Wisconsin, Michels’ shift on abortion isn’t 1st reversal

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Tim Michels was talking to a roomful of party activists in early September when he fielded a question about his position on abortion. Michels vowed he would never change, and said he was “winning” his race against Democratic Gov. Tim Evers precisely because people saw him as “a man of […]
9 hours ago
Associated Press

NC judge suspends sheriff taped disparaging Black employees

WHITEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina judge has suspended a sheriff who was recorded calling Black employees by derogatory names and saying they should be fired. The suspension of Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene on Tuesday comes after District Attorney Jon David sought his removal alleging that Greene engaged in racial profiling of employees […]
9 hours ago
Joseph Morrison, center back, appears before Jackson Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson for trial in a cou...
Associated Press

3 accused of assisting governor kidnapping plot stand trial

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — Jurors in the trial of three men charged in connection with a 2020 anti-government plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were told Wednesday about the formation and actions of a paramilitary group the government says trained as part of the scheme. Assistant Attorney General Bill Rollstin presented the Wolverine Watchmen […]
9 hours ago
FILE — Nobel prize-winning author John Steinbeck, right, admires a prize-winning poster by his so...
Associated Press

Steinbeck’s letter to son on love, ‘the best thing,’ on sale

BOSTON (AP) — A tender and touching letter that author John Steinbeck penned to his teenage son, offering fatherly advice after the young man confided that he was in love for the first time, is going up for auction. Boston-based RR Auction says the handwritten draft of a letter to his eldest son, Thomas — […]
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Project could revive deer on reservation land