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Indianapolis weighs deer hunt to safeguard park

– 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 park would follow significant discussions with park users and nearby residents.

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’s 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.