Buffer Zones and Prey Populations

Based on ethnohistoric research, Harold Hickerson argued that deer were more abundant in the buffer zone between the territories of two warring tribes (Sioux and Chippewa) in the Upper Midwest than in either tribe’s home territory. Hunters were wary of entering the buffer zone (but did not completely avoid them) because of the risk of running into their enemies. Once conflict between the two tribes ended, deer hunting resumed in the buffer zone, leading to a decrease in deer populations.

Hickerson, Harold

1965 The Virginia Deer and Intertribal Buffer Zones in the Upper Mississippi Valley. In Man, Cultures, and Animals: The Role of Animals in Human Ecological Adjustments, edited by Anthony Leeds and Andrew P. Vayda, pp. 43–65. Publication No. 78. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C.

A more recent series of articles debated whether the buffer zone concept applied to Native Americans and animal populations in the western United States encountered by Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s. Click on the links for pdfs of these articles.

Martin, Paul, and Christine Szuter

1999       War zones and game sinks in Lewis and Clark’s West. Conservation Biology 13(1):36-45.


Lyman, R. Lee, and Steve Wolverton

2002       The Late Prehistoric–Early Historic Game Sink in the Northwestern United States. Conservation Biology 16(1):73-85.


Laliberte, Andrea S., and William J. Ripple

2003       Wildlife Encounters by Lewis and Clark: A Spatial Analysis of Interactions between Native Americans and Wildlife. BioScience 53(10):994-1003.