View Full Version : IN: Deer bag limit plan rates a shot

Bob S
03-08-2009, 06:35 PM
ARTICLE (http://www.southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090308/Opinion/903080446/1062/Opinion)

March 08. 2009


House Bill 1585 which would let hunters shoot a lot more deer in about a third of the state, including much of northern Indiana should become law. The aim is to reduce the very high deer population in counties where the animals pose a serious risk to motorists.

Legislative fiat probably is not the best way to manage wildlife. But, given the apparent failure of the Indiana Department Of Natural Resources to reduce deer numbers in northcentral and northeastern Indiana, the General Assembly is faced with taking matters into its own hands.

It might seem counterintuitive that pro-hunting interests are opposed to HB 1585 unless one realizes that their wish is to keep the deer population high for the long term.

Sponsors of HB 1585, including Reps. Craig Fry, D-Mishawaka, William Friend, R-Macy, and David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, have a different interest: public safety.

Evidence that their concern is justified is persuasive:

*Deer-vehicle accidents in Indiana are up 25 percent since 2003, when 10,000 car-deer collisions were reported in Indiana's 92 counties.

*Approximately 10 percent of car-deer accidents in 2007 occurred in just three counties: St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall.

*In one weekend last fall, there were 15 car-deer collisions in a 35-mile stretch of the Indiana Toll Road.

Admittedly, a problem with the proposed law is its arbitrary nature. The lawmakers are betting that increasing the antlerless deer bag limit by 100 percent of the 2008 limit for three years, and extending those three years' hunting seasons by seven days, will effectively reduce the deer numbers.

Not a very scientific way to manage wildlife? Perhaps not. But it's justified all the same. The scientists at the DNR haven't averted the serious and growing safety problem on northern Indiana roadways. Therefore, HB 1585 ought to have its shot.

The lawmakers shouldn't stop there. They should seriously review what appears to be a disconnect between public safety concerns and the DNR's responsibilities to manage wildlife. That review should include consideration of how DNR programs are funded.

If it is true that high deer populations raise enthusiasm for deer hunting, then the DNR has a strong incentive to keep the deer numbers high in order to assure support for the activity well into the future. Tag and license fees do help to fund DNR operations, after all.

But at whose expense? As the rate of vehicle-deer collisions rises, it is increasingly important that the DNR make decisions that are in the interests of all Hoosiers, not just those who pay fees to hunt and fish. HB 1585 seems to be a step toward requiring the agency to do just that.