"Save the White Deer"
For nearly 20 years the words “Save the White Deer” have echoed across Seneca County, the Finger Lakes and beyond. These Seneca white deer lived on a 12,500 plus acre parcel of Seneca County known as the Seneca Army Depot. In 1995, the Seneca Army Depot announced that it was closing and that the land would revert to the County. This announcement fostered a looming question and concern about what would happen to the special herd of white deer. These majestic creatures had not only called the Seneca base “Home” since the late 1940’s but had become known world-wide. In the late 1960’s, it was estimated that the Depot housed over 300 all-white, white-tail deer within its fences.
State of Disrepair
The Seneca Army Depot officially closed in 2000, and the next 16 years proved difficult for the Seneca White Deer. Most of the property lay dormant and fell into disrepair. Invasive plant species, such as Autumn Olive, overtook much of the property, choking out many of the more nutritious plants. A decrease in herd management allowed for overpopulation of the herd when food inside the fence was already becoming scarce. Harsh winters claimed some of the deer through starvation. Breaches in the fence that surround the former military base went un-repaired. This allowed some of the deer to roam outside the protection of the fence in search of food. Once outside, many were hunted by predators or struck by vehicles along the highways. Additionally, the un-repaired fences allowed natural predators to wander in.
Improving the Habitat
In 2016, Local businessman, Earl Martin purchases approximately 7,500 acres of the former munition storage base from Seneca County. He set aside just over 3,000 acres as a wildlife preservation area and named it Deer Haven Park. Since its inception in 2016, Deer Haven Park has been planting food for the deer and other wildlife within. More specifically, over 100 acres have been cleared for the planting of crops that will never be harvested. Each year Deer Haven Park plants different grasses, clovers, radishes, turnips, soybeans, and corn to help sustain the deer. Additionally, more than 2,000 new trees are planted annually including fruit trees, nut trees, several apple varieties, and even conifers.
Deer Haven Park also mows the area along many of the roads and wood lines at the park. This allows fresh new tender chutes of grass to grow, which deer find tasty and nutritious. Deer Haven Park also performs general maintenance such as repairing the damaged fences.
Deer Haven Park’s staff ecologist closely monitors the deer herd and oversees herd management. This ensures that the white-tail herd at the park remains healthy and thrives while the magnificent white deer remain protected.
Privately Owned and Funded
Deer Haven Park is a privately-owned organization that does not rely on government grants to survive. We have answered the appeal to “Save the White Deer” and will continue to help the herd grow and thrive. All the enhancements made to this amazing habitat are funded personally and supplemented through private donations and tour proceeds.
How You Can Help
If you would like to support Deer Haven Park stop down and take the tour. Additionally, you can Donate to Deer Haven Park and help us continue to provide a place for wildlife to thrive. Your donation will help us preserve the memories and historical significance of the Seneca Army Depot. Your support will also help enhance the amazing and unique wildlife habitat, the Seneca white deer, and Deer Haven Park.
Thank you for helping Deer Haven Park remain “Home of the World’s Largest Herd of All White, White-Tail Deer!”