Restoring Balance, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada
The Llgaaygwü sdiihlda: Restoring Balance project aims to encourage the recovery of native ecosystems through the removal of invasive ungulates from islands in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
Sitka black-tailed deer were introduced to Haida Gwaii in the late 19th century, and since that time this invasive species has dramatically impacted native plants and plant communities. The negative ecological impacts of introduced non-native deer in Gwaii Haanas—and on Haida Gwaii more broadly—have suppressed the growth and health of many native plant species, changed vegetation dynamics, and reduced cover for many native mammals, including several federally listed species at risk. These negative impacts are particularly acute for plants of cultural significance to the Haida, including the iconic western redcedar and many medicinal and food plants. The deer have also disrupted or altered ecosystem processes through habitat modification and impacts to food supply/availability on Haida Gwaii, causing long term damage to native island species including seabirds, songbirds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates.
The Llgaaygwü sdiihlda: Restoring Balance project was focused on the permanent removal of invasive deer from six islands within Gwaii Haanas. The eradication of invasive deer from the islands will enable the natural restoration of temperate rainforest constituents, including the regeneration of native and endemic herb, shrub, and tree layers. Regeneration of the forest will, in turn, support a “bottom up” recovery process by increasing habitat quality and quantity for native invertebrate, landbirds, seabirds, and mammal populations, resulting in the return of a naturally functioning ecosystem.
As part of the project, 1,400 pounds of venison was harvested for Haida Gwaii’s Local Food to School, Meals on Wheels, and adult day programs. Deerskins were also harvested and will be used by local Haida youth to make deerskin drums.
Positive outcomes of the deer eradication are already being seen; native vegetation such as western redcedar, crabapple, devil’s club, and huckleberries are showing active regrowth in the absence of the deer.
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