Studies refute pretexts for deer hunting

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2008:
(Actual publication date 11-5-08.)
COLUMBUS, Ohio; WASHINGTON , D.C. Two of the most common pretexts for deer hunting in late October 2008 took a hit from data published by researchers who had no intention of discouraging hunting.
At least 31 states rationalize efforts to promote deer hunting by claiming an urgent need to kill more deer, to prevent deer/car collisions and protect biodiversity, supposedly harmed by too many deer devouring plants.
The Highway Loss Data Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that the number of people killed in deer/car crashes rose from 101 in 1993 to 150 in 2000 and 227 in 2007.

But the road safety researchers also confirmed as earlier studies found that insurance claims for deer/car collisions are three times higher in November than in January through September, and are also high in October and December.
The fall spike in deer/car collisions is often blamed on the rut, the season when bucks most aggressively pursue does. The road safety researchers cited that explanation. But in parts of the U.S. with harsh winters, the rut can begin as early as August. In regions with mild winters, deer may not rut consistently at all.
November, is the month when the most states allow deer to be hunted with rifles. Special seasons for bowhunters, users of primitive firearms, and the handicapped usually begin before the rifle season and end later. During hunting season, deer under fire tend to run beyond their home ranges, seeking safety, and then try to return to their home ranges at night.
An Ohio State University and National Park Service team investigating biodiversity in deer habitat expected to find that plentiful deer suppressed the abundance of other animals.
Instead, they found that high numbers of deer may in fact be attracting a greater number of species, summarized Ohio State Research News. This may be because their waste creates a more nutrient-rich soil and as a result, areas with deer draw higher numbers of insects and other invertebrates. These insects then attract larger predators which thrive on insect lava such as salamanders, and the salamanders in turn attract even larger predators such as snakes.
The study, which comes at a time when many states have begun to selectively control deer populations, challenges previous research that has suggested deer populations can negatively impact forest ecosystems, Ohio State Research News said.
The complete findings appeared in
The Journal of Wildlife Management.
Katherine Greenwald, an Ohio State University doctoral candidate in evolution, ecology, and biology, compared biodiversity at 12 pairs of matched fenced and unfenced habitats within Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The 51-square-mile park has an estimated deer population of 2,300 to 4,600, whom the National Park Service has repeatedly sought to cull. A plan to kill 470 deer was stopped by litigation in 1997. Cleveland Metroparks and Summit County hired sharpshooters to kill 2,365 deer in local parks within the Cuyahoga Valley in 2004-2006.

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