“Mr. Archibald, who lives near Decatur shot the last deer in Adams County in 1867.”
This news item appeared in the Decatur News of Dec. 7, 1882 and was reproduced in the
mammals section of the biology chapter of The 1979 History of Adams County, Indiana,
published by the Adams County Historical Society, Inc. in 1980. In the paragraph that followed, the book states that “Adams County has a higher population of white tail deer today in 1979 than they did in 1867. One reads of deer being killed by cars at least two or three times a year.” Two or three times a year? Oh, my goodness how times have changed! Nowadays, cars and deer collide as often as two or three times a day!
The word “extirpated” means a species of animal or plant has been eliminated entirely from
a given area, such as a county or a state or any other defined region. The species has not
become extinct; it is just gone from that location. So, deer were extirpated from Adams County in 1867. And they were extirpated from all of Indiana in 1893 when the last one was shot in Knox County. White-tailed deer were reintroduced to seven counties in Indiana by the DNR in 1934. The first limited hunting season occurred in 1951. Today, there are far more deer in our state than there have ever been, including before Indiana was first settled.
But how can this be, when the estimate of forest in pre-settlement Indiana (1820) was about 19,840,000 acres, and the forested area in modern Indiana (2005 data) is only 4,700,000 acres—a reduction of 85% coverage to 20%? Most people think of deer as forest animals, so it would seem logical that the more forest there is, the more deer there should be, right? While it is true deer will live in forests, they are much happier at the forest edge. They prefer open areas intermixed with small patches of forest, as Indiana is today, instead of one giant forest as it used to be. Modern Indiana is a more favorable habitat for deer than it ever was. The result is more deer now than there were in 1820 or 1867 or even 1979.
I faithfully checked the Portland Commercial Review newspaper daily for a year, from mid-
March 2014 until mid-March 2015, and recorded the locations in Jay County where the Sheriff’s Department reported deer/vehicle collisions. There were 123 collisions during that time. On 17 of those 123 days, there were 2 collisions on those days. On 4 of those 123 days, there were 3 collisions on those days. And on one of those 123 days, 4 unlucky people collided with deer that day! The total of estimated damages to the vehicles was between $180,500 and $413,000. This averages out to about $300,000 worth of damage in Jay County alone in one year!
I placed a dot on a map of Jay where each collision occurred. Although drivers should be
wary basically everywhere, this map does indicate where extra caution might be needed,
especially in the fall. A copy of this map is available at the Limberlost Visitor Center. When it
comes to driving and deer—let’s be careful out there!