INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Officials in Indianapolis are considering whether to allow deer hunting in the city-owned park along Eagle Creek Reservoir because of damage the animals are causing to the park’s vegetation.
The hunting being discussed for Eagle Creek Park could be similar to the deer hunts allowed at state parks over the past 20 years, and the review comes after Bloomington officials this spring decided to allow sharpshooters to kill deer in a city-owned nature preserve.
Michael Jenkins, a Purdue University forest ecologist, found in a city-paid study that the Eagle Creek Park deer are changing the plant ecology by stripping the land of certain species, such as wildflowers, and leaving others such as garlic mustard and Japanese stilt grass.
“There are some pretty obvious effects of overabundant deer down there,” Jenkins told The Indianapolis Star.
State Department of Natural Resources officials recommend hunting as the cheapest and most effective method of culling a deer population.
Scott Manning, a spokesman for the city’s Office of Sustainability, said options such as hiring sharpshooters or attempting deer contraception are being considered and that a decision to allow hunting in the 3,900-acre parkwould follow significant discussions with park users and nearby residents.
Joel Kerr, executive director of the Indiana Animal Rights Alliance, said he’s skeptical about the study’s findings of deer overpopulation since it didn’t actually count the number of deer in the park. He said he also doubted the state DNR’s motives.
“The DNR has a built-in bias and a compelling reason to side with the hunters because they make money on selling the licenses,” Kerr said. “I have still not seen any valid scientific evidence of overpopulation or biodiversity issues that can be directly attributed to the deer.”
The Bloomington parks board in May approved a $31,000 contract for sharpshooters to kill up to 100 deer in the 1,200-acre Griffy Lake nature preserve during scheduled hunts starting in November. The hunts were allowed after the Bloomington City Council voted 7-2 to override a veto by Mayor Mark Kruzan.
Manning said any plan for deer hunting at Eagle Creek Park would need to be approved by city parks board. The Indianapolis City-County Council also would need to make an exception to an ordinance that prohibitshunting in any city park.
Jenkins said Eagle Creek’s nature preserves have become dominated by plant species that deer don’t like to eat and some wooded areas have little vegetation beneath the main forest canopy.
“I like deer, but I also like wildflowers,” Jenkins said. “I think our parks can have both.”