One of the greatest threats to healthy wildlife populations throughout North America is the destruction of habitat. As large expanses of forests and wetlands are turned into subdivisions, shopping malls, and industrial areas, native wildlife are displaced, and often end up congregating in rather small, isolated patches of woods, sometimes right in the middle of urban and even city environments. One such example of this phenomenon is the deer herd of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri.
Located along the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis County, this historic site covers over 300 acres and is the final resting place for almost 200,000 military servicemen and women. While the deer typically lay low in the wooded areas around the cemetery during the day while burial activities are underway, in the late afternoon and evening hours they emerge in large numbers and roam the grounds.
Visitors to the cemetery, as well as the family members of those who are buried there, mostly enjoy the presence of the deer, however, the overpopulated herd do cause many problems, especially eating the flowers which decorate the thousands of graves, as well as destroying the cemetery grounds. Local biologists report that an area the size of the cemetery can support fifteen to twenty deer in a healthy manner. Surveys conducted at night, however, found that the area is home to a much larger number, somewhere around ninety deer. While the topic of how to best manage the Jefferson Barracks deer herd remains a subject of great debate, it nonetheless remains a popular, peaceful location, where one can prayerfully pay honor to those who have served our country, as well as observe the dozens of whitetail deer who call the cemetery home.
Click here to watch the video of the resident Jefferson Barracks bucks during the October and November breeding season, including some real giants!