Hunters were initially brought into Indiana parks in 1993 to help manage the population, and in less than three years, the practice proved so successful that most parks in the state opened to controlled hunts.
A new study by scientists at Purdue University has confirmed what many conservationists have long believed: hunting deer allows forests to recover.
Sportsmen and conservationists across the country rejoiced as the population of whitetail deer skyrocketed over the past few decades, but now many view the growing population with concern. In states like Indiana, deer numbers proved to be nearly unmanageable as early as the 1990s. In state parks, where hunting was not historically allowed, the appetite of burgeoning deer populations drove out native plants like trillium, lilies, and tree seedlings. Subsequently, plants that are inedible to deer took up shop, and cervids began to starve.
“We can’t put nature in a glass dome and think it’s going to regulate itself,” Michael Jenkins, an associate professor of forest ecology at Purdue, stated in a press release by the university. “Because our actions have made the natural world the way it is, we have an obligation to practice stewardship to maintain ecological balance.”