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Report: A Warming World Threatens Ohio’s Big Game Hunting

PHOTO: A new report examines the way climate change is impacting Ohio's big game and their habitat. Photo courtesy NWF.
PHOTO: A new report examines the way climate change is impacting Ohio's big game and their habitat. Photo courtesy NWF.
November 15, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's white-tailed deer firearms hunting season is coming up, and a new report examines the ways climate change is creating an uncertain future for deer and other big game species in the state, as well as for hunting aspects of the outdoor economy. The research from the National Wildlife Federation says heat, drought, and disease are threatening Ohio's white-tailed deer and their habitat.

According to Karl Brendel of Louisville, an avid deer hunter, he's already noticed changes in the environment.

"Every year that I hunt, it seems to get a little bit warmer," he observed. "We have less snow, you know - we're hunting in temperatures at 65, 67 degrees - and I've hunted my whole life, and you can see these things happening."

The research found long summers are likely to expose deer to more disease-carrying midges, and moderate winters contribute to the spread of Lone Star and blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and others. Human cases of Lyme disease have nearly doubled since 2011.

Dr. Glen Needham, an entomologist at Ohio State University, said that ticks are increasing in range and abundance in the state.

"Climate change is moderating temperatures; milder winters, longer warm weather seasons, warmer days during the winter," he said. "It's contributing to more exposure of animals and people to ticks. So, it's a concern."

Recent figures show about 45 percent of Ohioans hunt, fish or observe wildlife. Karl Brendel said that if something isn't done to combat climate change, these rich outdoor traditions are at risk, as well as the recreation economy they help support.

"Passing the tradition down, maintaining the animals, equates to a better economy," he said. "And maintaining these hunting outdoor shops that have sprung up in Ohio - all the restaurants, gas stations everything that everybody does when they interact with the outdoors - is important."

The report recommends steps to reduce climate change, such as cutting carbon pollution by 50 percent by 2030, transitioning to cleaner energy sources, and safeguarding wildlife habitat by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.

The report is at NWF.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH