Research Studies - people

The Human Dimensions of Deer Management in Indiana - Taylor Stinchcomb

Attaining the public trust ideal in deer management faces several challenges. First, effectively involving the public in management requires that managers and participants (or stakeholder groups) agree on deer population goals and understand who carries what responsibilities in the decision-making process. Coming to agreed-upon goals can be incredibly time consuming, and true consensus may never be reached due to conflicting values. Second, public interests in deer management to date have been limited to a select group of stakeholders, driven by mitigating deer-related impacts on property and livelihoods. This typically fails to account for emotional, cultural, and situational factors that can lead to human-human conflicts over deer management. Third, the informational gap between managers and the public is bi-directional: managers remain unaware of the degree to which public perceptions of deer vary, and the public is often unaware of the possibility and/or feasibility of different management approaches. Finally, deer-human interactions tend to depend on local contexts, demanding that management approaches adapt to changes in both social and ecological variables within a single state.

Our study begins to integrate the social dimension into deer management in Indiana, aiming to address the above challenges using a combination of semi-structured interviews, surveys, and comparative analysis to understand the following questions:

  1. How do Indiana residents and natural resource management professionals currently perceive, value, and experience deer populations across the state?
  2. What outcomes do residents and managers desire from deer management?
  3. What is the existing relationship between Indiana residents and deer management professionals?
  4. How can this relationship be shifted to more equitably incorporate stakeholder interests?
  5. How can the social and ecological data be integrated effectively to inform deer decision-making in Indiana?

We conducted one-on-one interviews with Indiana residents and professionals from six broad categories: professional foresters, woodland owners, farmland owners, hunters, urban/suburban residents, and natural resource or wildlife professionals. These interviews aim to determine the range of values, experiences, and concerns related to deer that exist among Indiana residents and management professionals.

Credit: Hoosier perceptions of deer by Taylor Stinchcomb

Hoosier perceptions of deer

Results from these interviews will help us develop a survey that measures deer-related values, attitudes, and experiences among a much larger sample of Indiana residents. The survey will refine our understanding of how interactions with deer vary across Indiana.