Deer are a common sight in the Hoosier state, but did you know there was once a 40-year period when deer were extirpated from Indiana?

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Photo by Scott Carroll on Unsplash
Photo by Scott Carroll on Unsplash

Oh, Deer!

Indiana is home to many woodland species, and one of the most common animals we see is the whitetail deer. It isn't uncommon to see a deer near the side of the road when you're driving at night or to have a deer wander into your backyard.  Herd estimates from Deer Friendly say that Indiana is home to an estimated 700,000 whitetail deer.  With this many deer roaming the Hoosier state, it's hard to imagine a time when there were no deer in Indiana, but there was a time when there were no deer in Indiana.

Deer Extirpated from Indiana

Believe it or not, there were a few decades more than 100 years ago when there were no deer in the state of Indiana as they had been extirpated.  So what does extirpated mean?  Well the dictionary definition of extirpated is:


transitive verb

ato destroy completely WIPE OUT
bto pull up by the root
Photo by Anthony Roberts on Unsplash
Photo by Anthony Roberts on Unsplash
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the last reported wild deer in Indiana was killed in Knox County in 1893. According to a Purdue paper written by Clark D. McCreedy, the reason Indiana lost its deer population was due to a few factors including the changing landscape from woodland to farmlands, and unregulated hunting.

Indiana Introduces Deer Back to the Hoosier State

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, deer are very adaptive and can easily thrive just about anywhere.  From 1934 to 1942 Indiana purchased nearly 300 deer from other states and introduced them to Indiana forests.  This was wildly successful.
Photo by STEPHEN SHEPPARD on Unsplash
Photo by STEPHEN SHEPPARD on Unsplash

The timeline of the deer population from Indiana DNR is as follows:

  • 1893: Last reported wild deer killed in Knox County.
  • 1934-1942: 296 deer purchased for release from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
  • 1943: Deer population estimated at 900 deer.
  • 1951: First deer season in 58 years—three days in November. (13 percent success rate.)
  • 1953-1955: 111 deer released throughout the state, with last releases in Sullivan and Ripley counties.
  • 1956: Deer trapping and relocation program began with 500 deer relocated.
  • 1975: Deer harvest near 9,000.
  • 1985: Deer harvest exceeds 32,000.

The successful reintroduction of white-tailed deer and success in growing the population was funded through the sales of hunting and fishing licenses fees and funds from the Pittman-Robertson Act.

The deer population has continued to grow, and according to a paper from Purdue, the sport hunting of deer adds an estimated $110,000,000 annually to the state's economy. However, that figure is offset a bit by the amount of vehicle crashes involving deer, and crop destruction from deer which cost the state about $40,000,000 annually.   So you win some you lose some I guess!

States with the most registered hunters

Stacker analyzed data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine which states have the most registered hunters. Read on to see how your state ranks on Stacker’s list.

Gallery Credit: Meagan Drillinger