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Deer hunt at Griffy Lake postponed for a year



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A deer crouches low in the brush near a house in downtown Bloomington. White-tailed deer have overpopulated the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve for years, damaging forest ecology by feeding on plants. Lydia Gerike Buy Photos

A deer hunt planned for the next three weekends at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve has been postponed until fall 2019. 

City officials determined a regulated hunt done by qualified local citizens was the best way to curb overpopulation of white-tailed deer and protect plants and trees.

The Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department did not receive enough applications from qualified hunters to carry out the hunt with its preferred contractor, White Buffalo Inc. 

The department received a $32,500 Community Hunting Access Program grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife to conduct regulated deer hunts this year and the next. A change to city code was made in September to allow licensed hunters to use firearms for the hunt. 

"We are committed to conducting the CHAP hunt with management practices that meet our high standards for safety and that give us the best chance for a successful recovery of the Griffy Lake ecosystem," said Paula McDevitt, administrator of the department, in a press release.

The department selected White Buffalo, whom they have worked with for more than three years, as the CHAP coordinator to administer the hunt, according to a city press release. The company would have screened and trained prospective licensed hunters, and supervised the three hunting weekends. 

Natural resources manager Steve Cotter said he had received 23 applications by an Oct. 22 deadline. They hoped to have at least 35 hunters for each of the six hunting days, and not all the hunters who applied were available every day of the hunt. 

“There was a pretty big gap,” Cotter said. 

The department has had several internal meetings since then to decide whether to pursue other CHAP coordinators, hire a sharpshooter or cancel the hunt.

White Buffalo determined more than 40 qualified hunters were needed to remove enough deer to meet the department’s goals, according to the press release. 

No one has been able to pinpoint how many deer are at the preserve, and it is unclear how many deer would need to be removed to return the ecosystem to a healthy level of sustainability. 

Cotter said 10 to 11 deer are appropriate for the nearly two square mile preserve. 

In 2017, a sharpshooter from White Buffalo killed 62 deer at a cost of about $43,500 to the city, Cotter said. With the grant money for the CHAP hunt, just $15,000 in additional funding would be needed from the department. 

Timing and White Buffalo’s limited availability prevented the department from hiring a sharpshooter as an alternative this fall, Cotter said. 

Researchers and Parks officials advocate for removing the deer population in the sake of biodiversity. Too many deer overbrowsing the plant community can damage vegetation and cause problems for the food chain. 

Vegetation show that deer are having a negative effect on the size and diversity of plant life at Griffy Lake, Cotter said. The department is still actively looking for hunters to help with the CHAP hunt next fall.

"Over the course of the coming year, we will work with White Buffalo to recruit an adequate pool of qualified, conservation-minded hunters who are willing to help us reduce the deer population enough to allow native plants and trees to recover," Cotter said in the press release.

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