By Kendall Downing
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Professional sharp-shooters could soon be hunting deer at Eagle Creek Park. It's a controversial plan that the Indianapolis Board of Parks and Recreation approved on Thursday night. The goal is to thin out the growing deer population.
But not everyone is happy about it.
Dozens of people stood up to speak both for and against the deer kill on Thursday. In the end, the parks board signed off on the $61,000 plan, which could start as soon as October.
Chances are most park board meetings don't take nearly three hours.
People filled the seats, with a variety of opinions. At issue, white-tailed deer and a population the city says is destroying the park. Eagle Creek Park is overflowing with deer, so many of them, both the city and state experts said they're causing permanent damage to the park by eating everything they can reach, as well as scouring nearby neighborhoods in search of food.
"We believe that we're at a point now where the forest and the park has been so degraded that we have to make a decision," said John Williams, director of Indy Parks.
The other problem, said the city, is that the deer have no predators. In an urban environment, they can't be hunted, so they continue to reproduce.
"The way that we're going to approach it is to bring the herd down to a level we believe is managed," said Williams.
A company will work with the city to control the secure hunt.
Bait stations, trail cameras, and tree stands are part of the plan. Sharp-shooters will use specialized bullets that cannot ricochet and are loaded down to reduce noise. There's also talk of allowing wounded veterans the chance to hunt as part of their therapy.
"There's no way to know if your program, whatever management program you're using, is going to be effective, if you have no idea how many deer are in existence in the park," said Erin Huang, Indiana State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.
But Huang points to the fact that there's never been an exact count to try and determine how many deer there are. Experts said an exact count is not possible.
The parks board moved ahead with the vote Thursday despite a statement from the Parks and Recreation Committee of the City-County Council asking that the vote be delayed.
The program is slated to run from October through January 2015. The city will shut down the park, notify the public, and secure the park on days actual shooting would take place.