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Do Rising Temperatures Threaten Deer Hunting in Ohio?

A National Wildlife Federation report says Ohio's hunting season soon could be compromised by a warming climate. Credit: Larry Smith/Flickr
A National Wildlife Federation report says Ohio's hunting season soon could be compromised by a warming climate. Credit: Larry Smith/Flickr
December 1, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio hunters are headed to the woods this week for white-tailed deer season, but a new report finds the annual event could become a fading tradition with the threat of climate change.

Warming temperatures are stressing both big and small game animals, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Specifically, said Frank Szollosi, the group's regional campaign manager, longer and warmer summers are expanding the range of ticks and midges that bring hemorrhagic disease, which can make deer more vulnerable to disease and death.

"One can point to the impact of hemorrhagic disease decimating moose populations in northern forests," he said. "It's really heartbreaking to see, and we can't let hemorrhagic disease have that type of impact on white-tailed deer, particularly in Ohio."

The report also noted the consequences of rising temperatures on Lake Erie, with extreme rainfall events increasing harmful algal blooms and invasive species. Szollosi contended that fast action is needed from state leaders to fight the effects of climate change, including support for the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and more money for state agencies to better manage species and their habitats.

It isn't just wildlife at stake, according to the report, but also the multi-billion-dollar annual boost to Ohio's economy from hunting, angling and bird-watching. Dave Spangler, a charter-boat captain on Lake Erie, said business was down nearly 25 percent there this summer, with algal blooms forcing the cancellation of many charters.

"When we have massive algal blooms, we try to not run around in those. It's not a pretty place to be for our customers," said Spangler, who serves as vice president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association and president of Lake Erie Waterkeepers. "The other part of it is, when we do try to outrun where the green water is, we burn up an awful lot more fuel than we typically would."

The report also urged action on the EPA's proposed rule to reduce climate-damaging methane pollution, and more investment in energy efficiency and clean-energy sources, including wind and solar.

The report is online at NWF.org/GameChangers.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH