In 2010, Providence Water began a white-tailed deer management program on a portion of the watershed property in Scituate. A prominent feature of this effort is controlled deer hunting through a permit system administered in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM). The goal of the hunt is to reduce the size of the deer population for the benefit of the entire ecosystem, not to provide recreational opportunities for hunters.
A healthy deer population will always be desirable on the watershed property, but deer overabundance has become a problem as it has throughout southern New England and many areas of the Northeast. Repeated deer browsing has long-term negative effects on native tree seedlings, shrubs, and wildflowers. The resulting lack of young tree seedlings limits the forest's ability to protect water quality in the event of a disturbance such as a hurricane, fire, or insect outbreak. The forest is most resilient when deer impacts on vegetation are reduced and many different types and sizes of plants can grow without being eaten. Providence Water has been working with the USDA Forest Service to develop and implement a vegetation monitoring system to evaluate the success of the program. It will take years to see results and for the ecosystem to rebound. Monitoring will also help to determine any modifications that may be necessary in future years.
The 2014-15 deer hunting season extends from September 15 through January 31. Seven sections of the property are open to individual hunters. Six additional areas are designated for archery hunting only for small groups of 5-9 individuals. Permit holders for all areas were selected through a lottery application administered by RI DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife. Hunters are required to follow all state hunting laws and additional rules that apply to the Providence Water Deer Management Cooperative.