Study: Deer Hunts Boost Native Plants In State Parks

The Department of Natural Resources' controlled deer hunts have doubled the plant cover in state parks since the 1990s.

deer in forest

Photo: Cindy Cornett Seigle (Flickr)

The controlled hunts in Indiana's state parks aims to manage the deer population.

Regulated deer hunts are increasing the presence of native plants in state parks, a Purdue University study has found.

Researchers compared the amount of plant cover in 108 plots of land across Indiana state parks. They found that in in the ‘90s before the Department of Natural Resources allowed deer hunts, many native plant species were nearly extinct.

Purdue forest ecology professor Mike Jenkins says by 2010, plant cover had doubled due in large part to the DNR’s efforts.

“They have worked very hard at this and should be commended, but the effort needs to be sustained,” Jenkins says. “Once you quit, it won’t be very long until you start to return to the condition before the hunts started.”

The controlled hunts received significant criticism when they first started in 1993.

DNR deer biologist Chad Stewart says that’s not the case anymore.

“These hunts have an incredible and really spotless safety record,” Stewart says. “So a lot of those fears and oppositions have gone away and really it’s a non-issue. It goes to show how attitudes change over time especially once a safety record can’t be challenged anymore.”

Stewart says controlling the deer population can also lead to a drop in deer/vehicle collisions and fewer cases of lyme disease.

The money from hunting licenses goes toward managing fish and wildlife resources in the state.

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