Researchers believe to maintain a healthy ecosystem in Indiana forests, something must be done to address an overpopulation of deer. Bloomington has struggled with an urban deer population.
This spring, the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department conducted a plant height survey at Griffy Lake Nature preserve. The study comes after years of deer management recommendations and efforts at Griffy Lake that all seemed to die on the vine.
Researchers looked at six different species of plants at Griffy Woods then compared them to vegetation at Morgan-Monroe State Forest and Brown County State Park, both which have deer management programs of some kind.
The findings were discussed at an informational meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.
Dr. Angie Shelton, a member of the department’s environmental resources advisory council says the findings show a reduction in size, flowers, and number of the plants at the Griffy preserve. She says deer browsing is a likely cause.
“We’re not particularly concerned about the deer,” Shelton says. “We’re concerned about the effect the deer are having on the forest community, so the plants are the base of the food web. They determine the health abundance, population of all the other species that are out there.”
Michael Enyeart has lived in the heart of Griffy Woods for about 30 years. He says he’s surveyed the entire property and doesn’t believe there is a surplus of deer in the area.
“Instead we’re on this crazy hunt to figure out what the jack-in-the-pulpits are doing in Griffy Woods instead of just going out and measuring the deer,” Enyeart says.
Shelton says it’s difficult for experts to know how many deer are out there, but in order to maintain a healthy forest ecosystem the deer should be managed in some way.
Enyeart says moving forward the city should commission a survey to measure the deer. He says if the circumstances call for it, he believes allowing local hunters to reduce the deer population is the right move.
Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Manager Steve Cotter called the information panel helpful. He plans to take what was discussed at the meeting to the Board of Park commissioners in order to move forward. The group’s next meeting is on Aug. 22.