The Impact of Covid-19 on Iowa’s Deer Population

With the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of people and wildlife co-existing has drastically changed. While infections from Covid-19 have taken their toll on the human population, it has also impacted wildlife in many ways. In Iowa, the deer population has been affected in several ways and some of the long-term effects are still largely unknown. This article will discuss the effects of Covid-19 on Iowa deer populations and how these impacts could also impact landowners, hunters and deer management within the state.

Impact on Deer Herds 

The impact of Covid-19 on Iowa deer herds has been significant and can be seen in a number of different ways. There are two main aspects to consider: the effect on the deer population that can be observed and the effect on deer habitats.

Direct Behavioral Changes 

When restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were put in place, people were no longer able to enjoy outdoor activities such as hunting and camping. As these activities dwindled, deer populations had access to otherwise densely populated areas. This led to habituation by deer, meaning deer had easier access to food sources, with less availability of predator control. According to Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), deer have become more active in township parks, backyards and habitats that were generally accessible to humans. This has caused an increase in browsing and rubbing of trees in urban areas, competition for food sources and ultimatelya higher population of deer.

Effects on Habitat 

Covid-19 has also left its mark on the habitat that deer have been calling home. With people not being able to enjoy the great outdoors, maintenance of trails and other land management practices have been disrupted. Trails that were once used for hiking, biking and horseback riding are now overgrown, leaving deer with untouched resources. Without trails and pathways, deer herds go unused and left with no way to move or migrate naturally. This could lead to large concentrations of deer in small areas that don’t receive proper predators control and could potentially lead to overgrazing and the destruction of vegetation in areas while the deer boast in numbers.

Impact on Hunters 

Covid-19 has not only caused a disruption to the deer population, but it has also caused a disruption to Iowa’s population of hunters. The majority of hunters in Iowa are die-hard enthusiasts that travel to camp and hunt every fall. With Covid-19 restrictions, out-of-state hunters have been unable to travel and as a result, many hunters have had to find other activities to do. Less hunters would lead to a decrease in pressure on the deer population, due to fewer deer being hunted and harvested. This could lead to an increase in the deer population, as well as more competition for food sources.

Impact on Deer Management 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the disruption it has caused to deer populations, deer management within the state of Iowa has been heavily impacted. The majority of state deer management decisions are made using information gathered from deer population surveys and hunter surveys, conducted every few years. With the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, these surveys have been greatly hampered and could lead to inaccurate information about the deer population, its habitats and land management techniques.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an uncertain future for the deer population of Iowa and its management. Disruptions to the deer habitat and humans’ disruption of outdoor activities has potentially caused an increase in the deer population and a decrease in hunter presence. This could lead to an increase in food competition, damage to the deer habitat and an overall decrease in the management of the deer population. All of these concerns must be taken into account when considering the future of the deer population in Iowa.