Deer Hunting for Conservation? Not So Fast, Study Says

It has become conventional wisdom that culling deer is a necessary measure that humans must take in order to protect deer and their habitats from the effects of over-population. But new research has found that, in fact, areas with more deer actually have higher biodiversity.[social_buttons]

The study, performed by researchers with the National Park Service and Ohio State University,  seems to support the position of many animal rights activists have held for years—deer should be left alone.

The study found that many insects and other animals preferred to live in the area with deer activity. While centipedes, pill bugs, millipedes, and beetles were found in similar quantities in both sections, the researchers found almost three times as many salamanders, over five times as many snakes, and 11 percent more snails in the area where deer were allowed.

“We need to be aware of what’s happening in these forest ecosystems,” said Katherine Greenwald, co-author of the study. “Culling deer may cascade into affecting plants, salamanders, and other creatures in ways we can’t even imagine. So before we start removing deer we should study what’s really happening in these areas because there are a whole host of other issues that go along with culling.”

Photo Credit: Kubina on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

4 thoughts on “Deer Hunting for Conservation? Not So Fast, Study Says”

  1. deer can only expand population wise for so long before we are competing for the same reasources. There are more deer now than there were when europeans first arrived in America. I dont see why is it is controversial to hunt deer when it can only help we shouldnt shun hunting because it is the only logical way to keep pops in check and if that doesnt occur diseases can go rampant such as chronic wasting disease and for people looking for healthier meat deer have none of the harmful hormones that are injected into beef and a educated hunter can under the right circumstances save money

    1. Are so right. A majority of the money hunters spend on equipment also goes toward conservation. We aren’t the bad guys, instead we are actually taking on the role God gave us when he told us to be stewards of the earth.

  2. I think that studies like this one are definitely worthwhile, but in fact this study seems to be missing the point to a large extent. Deer populations are growing in suburban areas and I think that’s where they can hurt ecosystems that are already impaired.

    As this study occurred in a national park, it’s a little obvious that a more intact ecosystem would be affected by deer hunting. In places like my home state of Georgia, deer hunting because of overpopulation seems to make more sense. Also add the fact that habitat loss pushes these deer into the remaining habitats that are available (more ecologically intact forests) and perhaps the study’s findings aren’t that surprising. Biological diversity should be higher in those areas, so perhaps what we have represented in this study is a statistical correlation, but not a causal relationship (in other words, perhaps deer populations don’t directly have a huge effect on those of insects/amphibians).

    This being said, I support the protection of intact ecosystems and the rehabilitation of ecosystems that have been impaired when appropriate. Research like this study is needed to help provide data to understand the conservation effects associated with deer populations and hunting.

    I’d like to see a similar study replicated in a more impaired area that is also more residential.

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