A mix of both non-lethal and lethal means—the latter including the use of
sharpshooters—is part of the National Park Service’s final White-tailed Deer
Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement for Indiana Dunes National
That plan was developed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy
Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a Notice of
Availability for the plan in the Federal Register on April 27.
A Record of Decision, describing the selected alternative and project
commitments, will be signed by the Midwest Regional Director no sooner than
30 days after the listing in the Federal Register, the National Park Service
(NPS) said in a statement released last week.
Each unit of NPS is “driven by federal enabling legislation and this
management plan is needed to ensure that the local deer population does not
harm the park’s biologically diverse natural communities,” the statement
said. “Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was established in part to preserve
the exceptional biological diversity of Northwest Indiana, including many
threatened and endangered plants and animals.”
“The White-tailed Deer Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement
evaluated four possible management actions,” the statement said. “This plan
allows the park to take appropriate action as needed to ensure that the
local deer population does not become a dominant force that negatively
influences ecosystem components within the National Lakeshore, such as
sensitive vegetation or other wildlife. Impacts to these National Lakeshore
resources would compromise its purpose to preserve the exceptional
biodiversity found within its boundaries.”
Each alternative addresses the potential environmental consequences for
vegetation, soils and water quality, white-tailed deer and deer habitat,
other wildlife and wildlife habitat, sensitive and rare species,
archeological resources, cultural landscapes, visitor use and experience,
visitor and employee health and safety, soundscapes, socioeconomic
conditions, and National Lakeshore management and operations.
The four alternatives:
•Alternative A (no action) would continue current deer management
actions—including limited fencing, limited use of repellents, and
inventorying and monitoring efforts—would continue. No new deer management
actions would be taken.
•Alternative B would include all actions described under Alternative A but
would also incorporate non-lethal actions to possibly reduce deer numbers in
the National Lakeshore. The additional actions would include the
construction of additional small- and new large-scale exclosures, more
extensive use of repellents in areas where fenced exclosures would not be
appropriate or feasible, and phasing in nonsurgical reproductive control of
does when there is a federally approved fertility control agent available
for application to free-ranging populations that provides multi-year (three
to five years) efficacy for does.
•Alternative C would include all actions described under alternative A but
would also incorporate a direct reduction of the deer herd size through
sharpshooting and capture/euthanasia, where appropriate.
•Alternative D would also include all the actions described under
alternative A but would incorporate a combination of specific lethal and
non-lethal actions from Alternatives B and C. These actions would include
the reduction of the deer herd through sharpshooting, in combination with
capture/euthanasia and phasing in of nonsurgical reproductive control of
does (as described in Alternative B) for longer-term maintenance of lower
herd numbers when there is a federally approved fertility control agent for
application to free-ranging populations that provides multi-year (three to
five years) efficacy for does.
“The preferred alternative—Alternative D—was selected because it would best
protect, preserve, and enhance the natural processes needed to maintain a
viable deer population within the National Lakeshore,” the statement said.
“The methods used in Alternative D involved the least uncertainty in
implementation and could ensure an immediate reduction in deer herd numbers
that could be sustained over the life of the plan.”
A copy of the final plan is available online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/indu
or you can request a hard copy or CD of the plan from Randy Knutson,
Wildlife Biologist, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,1100 North Mineral
Springs Road, Porter, IN 46304-1299.