Hunting on Conservancy Land - a list of preserves that allow hunting.
From the Indiana Department of Natural Resources
It’s hard to believe that deer may have totally disappeared from Indiana at one time, but it’s true. Of course no one knows for sure, but all indications are they were fully gone by the year 1900. There were no hunting regulations then, and forests in Indiana had been cleared and grazed to a greater extent than at any time before or since. There simply were few places for deer to hide, and hunting was a way for many Hoosiers to put food on the table.
Efforts were made by the Indiana Department of Conservation to bring deer back to Indiana during the 1920s. It was successful, and in 1951 the first deer hunting season was held. For the next three decades the deer population didn’t grow much. Many people still remember when it was exciting even to see a deer. In the 1980s, however, the number of deer in Indiana began to grow dramatically. There are no hard numbers on how many deer are found statewide, but the number of deer harvested each year continues to increase, with records being set each year of the past three years.
Unfortunately, along with greater numbers of deer came more and more auto collisions. Records compiled by State Farm Insurance reveal over 35,000 cars in Indiana struck deer in 2009, some of these producing injuries and even fatalities. The company estimates that the chance of striking a deer in Indiana while driving is 1 in 140, making Indiana a “high-risk” state.
There is some evidence higher numbers of deer across the eastern U.S. have caused the rise of tick-borne disease. Lyme disease isn’t in the news like it was once, but according to the Centers for Disease Control the number of Lyme disease cases reported continues to increase. In the decade between 1998 and 2008, the number of reported cases nationwide increased from 16,000 to 29,000.
These unprecedentedly large deer herds have had great consequences for the health of our forests. Deer can consume large amounts of leaves, twigs, and acorns. In some areas of the country, including Indiana, deer are changing the nature of the forest by eliminating many wildflowers and tree seedlings that normally would be present. Studies have shown that when deer populations get too high, low-nesting songbirds such as the Kentucky Warbler can be pushed from the forest.
Too many deer presents difficult choices for organizations such as The Nature Conservancy. On the one hand we think of our preserves as places of protection for native species. Yet on the other hand we cannot allow one species, in this case a large herbivore, to become so out of balance with its historic natural numbers that many plants found on our lands, including rare or endangered ones, are threatened with their very existence. For the last several years, we have had a carefully managed hunting program on many of our preserves to address this imbalance.
This year the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife is proposing new efforts to reduce the number of deer in Indiana, especially where numbers are particularly high. The most noticeable of these changes, if passed, will be two short firearms seasons in selected counties beyond the traditional time in November. One of these will be a two-day season in October and another will be between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, both focused on does.
The Nature Conservancy has been part of the stakeholders group working on proposals with the Division of Fish and Wildlife to reduce the overabundance of deer in Indiana. We support these changes as we firmly believe that deer are a majestic and necessary part of the landscape, but like many things in life, too much is not a good thing.
If you have questions or would like more information, contact Allen Pursell, Southern Indiana Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.May 12, 2011