A Look at Reineman Sanctuary

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Located eight miles north of the Dickinson campus, the Florence Jones Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary is a little-known but valuable resource for Dickinson’s sustainability curriculum. Due to a clause in Reineman’s daughter’s will that allows Dickinson students access to the sanctuary for educational purposes, many classes take trips to this 3,400 acre field laboratory to perform field research. Recently, however, this living laboratory has become an exemplar of the widespread effects of deer overpopulation.
Deer were largely absent from Pennsylvania in the 19th century, until the Pennsylvania Game Commission was established in 1895 to help re-build the population. Because of this protection, a decrease in hunting and the lack of natural predators, throughout the 20th century the deer population skyrocketed, leading to the overpopulation felt by Pennsylvania ecosystems today.
Reineman in particular is so deeply affected by this because “it was set up as a true preserve which is to limit human intrusion,” Wingert said, referring to the stipulations found in the will.
“There is no hunting, fishing [or] cutting of wood,” Wingert said. The animals were to be able to live in peace without being molested.” Since none of the deer can be hunted, they continue to wreak havoc on the ecosystem. “It’s a total ecologic disaster, if you will.” At Reineman, deer have destroyed the understory – the plant life that grows beneath the forest canopy – thus allowing Asian plant species to replace native plants. Animal species that either live in or feed on trees in the understory are suffering as well.
It is a troubling situation, however Reineman is just one example of this state-wide problem.
“I look at Reineman as one, a poster child for what deer can do in the state,” Wingert said.” “Also, it’s a great place to find out: can the forest find a way to fight back against the deer.”
Professor Wingert believes Dickinson and other visitors of Reineman should see it as a learning tool as opposed to something to be fixed – other areas are in more dire need of intervention.