Several dozen deer are about to swap the Piedmont for Cherokee reservation lands in western North Carolina. At the request of the tribe, the state and federal government are helping to relocate the deer to grow that area’s deer population.
White-tailed deer used to play an important role in the lives of Cherokee Indians. They were the tribe’s main food source. Their hide was made into clothing and drums and their bones into tools. There are no longer many deer on the reservation or in the mountains.
“The tribe is interested in improving that population to both re-connect that animal to cultural traditions and, in the long-term, potentially years and years down the line, have a traditional food source be restored to the area,” says Mike LaVoie with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Program.
It just so happens the Piedmont is teaming with white-tailed deer.
“We have an abundance of deer in some of our parks, so it was a natural fit,” says Charlie Peek, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Later this month, biologists will begin tranquilizing deer in Morrow Mountain State Park and then relocating them to the reservation. They’ll try not to break-up families.
“Just like anybody taking a move, if you have your family and folks with you, you’re going to be a lot happier,” says Peek.
They’ll spend a month in a 4-acre enclosure on the reservation before being released.
Deer tend not to roam far. So the tribe’s wildlife officials hope they’ll stay put on the reservation. They’ll be monitoring them and using that information to understand why the mountains don’t have more deer.
The goal is to locate up to 150 deer to the reservation over the next three years.