Chesterton Tribune

National Lakeshore picks plan to reduce deer numbers

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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 Lakeshore.

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.

 

Posted 5/7/2012