Determining Deer Reduction Zones

Determining deer reduction zones

What are deer reduction zones?

Deer reductions zones (DRZs) target areas that have high deer populations and high human density, resulting in concerns about the local ecology, deer-vehicle collisions, and personal property damage.  These areas are often under-utilized by hunters because of lack of access or because hunters have not considered hunting in an urban area. 
The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife designates an area as a DRZ to manage problems faced by residents and commuters in these areas through sport hunting. A DRZ provides hunters with additional opportunities to take deer in these areas. The goal is to reduce deer-human conflict; it is not to eliminate the deer population. Incorporating or increasing hunting both helps manage deer populations and increases their wariness of humans, which can also reduce conflicts.
DRZs may also be used in areas where a high population of deer threatens to spread disease to livestock, humans and other wildlife.
The smallest deer management unit in Indiana has traditionally been at the county level; however, a DRZ allows the Indiana DNR to target areas within a county for management. This should allow deer in one part of a county to remain stable or increase, while decreasing populations in another part of the same county. This also coincides with the current deer management plan in Indiana. The 5-year plan is to strategically manage Indiana’s deer herd. In some areas, that means there should be a larger deer population, while in others the population should be maintained or reduced. The DRZs allow managers to target such areas without reducing county-wide deer populations.

So how are candidates for deer reduction zones identified?

Researchers identify areas with high human-deer conflict by mapping areas with high rates of deer-vehicle collisions. Other conflicts may include reports of deer damage by landowners, requests for permits, or calls for assistance through our private lands biologists. 
Biologists from the private lands program and the deer research program examine and discuss each area and whether a DRZ would address localized human-deer conflicts. 
Another consideration is a community’s desires. In some areas, a limited amount of hunting may already be occurring, and communities may be happy with the current level of hunting. In some situations, a DRZ may be counterproductive to hunting access, because community leaders may feel pressured and respond by restricting hunting through local ordinances. Alternatively, communities may ask for a DRZ so they can continue an urban hunting program. To determine the community’s reaction to a possible designation, district biologists seek local input.

Is deer–human conflict the only reason for a deer reduction zone?

As mentioned before, another reason that an area may be identified as a candidate for a DRZ is disease risk to humans or livestock as a result of deer density. Selection as a DRZ would require a series of deer disease surveys and a determination by public health officials, domestic animal officials, DNR biologists and veterinarians that wildlife is a primary reservoir for a disease and that reducing the deer population would significantly lower the transmission risk to humans or livestock.

How are boundaries for deer reduction zones determined?

Each proposed DRZ is reviewed and evaluated to determine how it would affect hunting access and harvest in each area. Boundaries are drawn using existing roads, so hunters can easily know if they are in the zone. Boundaries include some rural and/or greenspace areas surrounding more developed areas to allow for hunting access. This can be especially important if this is a travel zone for commuters where there are deer-vehicle collision issues, or if hunting access is limited within city limits or incorporated areas due to hunting or firearm discharge restrictions.
The proposal is then reviewed by Division of Fish & Wildlife administrators and the Department of Natural Resources director. If the proposal is accepted, a one-year temporary rule is written to allow implementation of the DRZ.

What are the 2017-2018 deer reduction zones?

The deer reduction zones for the 2017-2018 hunting season are the urban and suburban areas in northern Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties; the South Bend-Mishawaka-Elkhart area; Fort Wayne; Warsaw; West Lafayette and Lafayette; Indianapolis and some of the surrounding communities; Muncie; and Evansville.

How do deer reduction zones address problems between people and deer?

The increased allowable antlerless harvest and lengthened season means that Indiana’s deer hunters can help address problem areas and potentially reduce the need for other measures, such as sharpshooting by paid contractors or the use of deer damage permits.
Deer reduction zones can help communities receive grants from the Community Hunting Access Program. The Community Hunting Access Program (CHAP) is designed to increase hunting opportunities for deer in urban environments and help alleviate human-deer conflicts. The program provides partners with financial and technical assistance to administer hunting programs in their communities. Each partner determines the location and time of the hunts and which hunters can participate. Partnering communities, homeowners associations, parks and other organizations submit an application as described on the DNR website. There are also individuals who are trained to implement urban and suburban hunts that can be contracted to assist with establishing and operating hunts in these areas.
A designation as a DRZ can also demonstrate an identified need to community leaders to address deer concerns. In turn, this increases access for hunting which can help reduce damage in a targeted manner.

How can I find out more about how deer are managed in Indiana?

Visit the Indiana Deer Hunting Biology and Management webpage at wildlife.IN.gov/8367.htm.