The Bloomington City Council considered an amendment to an existing ordinance during a meeting Wednesday night that would allow professional sharpshooting at the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve.
The amendment to the current ordinance, proposed by council member Dave Rollo, would allow only professional sharpshooters contracted by the city to hunt within the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve.
Costs to the city for this expense were estimated to be about $30,000 annually.
Municipal code does not allow any use of a firearm within city limits unless it is discharged by a law enforcement officer or used in self-defense.
Rollo said that if the council does not take action to curb deer overabundance now, the effects could be irreversible.
“Damage is acute now,” Rollo said. “And it’s getting worse.”
The meeting began with the council voting by a margin of 5 to 3, with one abstention, not to limit the amount of time allowed for council deliberation and public comment.
Council member Stephen Volan presented a motion to limit the debate to three hours in order to regulate the amount of time Wednesday night’s meeting would take.
“There’s no reason why this has to be decided at second reading on April 9,” Volan said, implying that the ordinance could go to a third reading.
Several council members objected, saying that the motion was unprecedented and would limit the input of the public.
“We’ve never done this before,” council member Andy Ruff said.
Each public comment was limited to five minutes, however.
Ramsay Harik, a community member, asked the council to take immediate action, putting priority on the science available to them “no matter how squeamish it makes the rest of us feel.”
David Parkhurst, who worked for the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs until 2005, said allowing this amendment would help preserve the existing environment at Griffy Lake.
“I don’t understand what’s so precious about deer that makes them so much more important than birds and other wildlife,” Parkhurst said.
A Griffy Lake Master Plan compiled in 2008 recognized the problem of deer overpopulation and called for an examination of potential solutions to the problem.
Sharpshooting was determined to be the most viable option.
Contraception and sterilization were both discussed at Wednesday night’s council meeting as alternatives, but were generally agreed upon to not be cost-effective.
“Contraception has ever proven ineffective in a free-ranging environment,” said Josh Griffin, a regional supervisor with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Michael Ellenwood said he had been hunting deer his entire life and feels the council is not considering unintended consequences.
Ellenwood is from upstate New York, an area that also struggles with deer overabundance.
He said he feels that shooting the deer will only cause them to disperse.
“As soon as you start shooting them, they’ll move,” Ellenwood said.
Richard Darling, a Bloomington resident, said his neighborhood was serving as a “highway” for deer traveling to Griffy Lake.
“‘Bambi’ is a very interesting movie. It’s fun to watch and kids love it,” Darling said. “I don’t want a herd of deer and skunks ravaging my front yard.”