John Linnemeier is the only one of the three candidates in the May 5 Democratic Primary to even mention the term deer on his website, where he predicts the others would “kick the can down the road one more time.” He offers a “novel approach” to the issue of urban deer: sedating and sterilizing them.
“The situation continues to deteriorate as the deer population increases,” he says. “It should be obvious that any action in the future will be more traumatic and expensive as a result of this continued procrastination.”
"The urban deer problem in our neighborhoods will not solve itself. And kicking the can down the road again is not my way of doing things.” - John Linnemeier, Democratic mayoral candidate
But even Linnemeier doesn’t mention the Griffy Lake deer cull, which was approved by the City Council, vetoed by Mayor Mark Kruzan, overridden by the council, and then canceled last winter due to unfavorable environmental conditions.
John Hamilton says he will “follow science” and “respect the actions of the elected city council.” City Councilman Darryl Neher, who voted for the Griffy cull, said he is waiting “to better understand the reasons for the cancellation.”
The plan to reduce the deer herd at the Griffy Nature Preserve followed a two-year study by a Joint City of Bloomington-Monroe County Deer Task Force that concluded the deer threatened native species and biodiversity at the city-owned preserve and presented a different set of problems in the city.
“When it comes to deer at Griffy Woods,” the executive summary said, “clear evidence points to ecosystem damage by deer – native tree seedlings are not regenerating; herbaceous plant species are severely compromised and possibly going locally extinct; invasive species are taking over some areas; the forest understory is unnaturally open; and understory-reliant birds and other animals are losing habitat.”
"Ball State researchers are collecting data concerning deer migration within our city that will ultimately help guide future policy decisions.” - Darryl Neher, Democratic mayoral candidate
And while it said deer in residential neighborhoods hadn’t reached the “biological carrying capacity – the number of deer the suburban environment could support,” their populations had reached their “social carrying capacity,” defined as residents’ tolerance levels for deer, which eat domestic and garden plants and can cause auto accidents.
“This report recommends that lethal means be introduced where predation has long been absent in an effort to restore ecosystem balance at Griffy Woods, to better manage conflict with deer in neighborhoods, and to prevent the deer herd from growing.”
The plan to hire an East Coast company that specializes in deer control drew the ire of some citizens who organized against it, involvement by the Humane Society of the United States and political opposition from Mayor Mark Kruzan.
In answers to questions from the League of Women Voters of Bloomington & Monroe County (LWV), Hamilton said the deer population challenges the long-term viability of Griffy’s ecosystem.
“As mayor, I will follow the science and the long-term vision for Griffy,” he said. “And I will respect the actions of the elected city council as well in evaluating options.”
Neher said in the LWV questionnaire he supports non-lethal measures within the city, citing alternatives from the task force report that include fence height and feeding bans.
“Additionally, Ball State researchers are collecting data concerning deer migration within our city that will ultimately help guide future policy decisions – which could include working with the Humane Society of the United States on a deer management plan,” he said.
"As mayor, I will follow the science and the long-term vision for Griffy, And I will respect the actions of the elected city council as well in evaluating options.” - John Hamilton. Democratic candidate for mayor, Democratic mayoral candidate
Hamilton said the ever-increasing deer population poses a more social/political problem.
“They challenge some residents’ sense of enjoyment of their homes and property, as well as safety, while others strongly appreciate the presence of, and respect for, wildlife,” he said.
Residential deer is an issue best left to the City Council, Hamilton added.
“Given the great diversity of views of neighbors and neighborhoods, the City Council, closest to the neighborhoods, is the best place for necessary decisions and compromises,” he said. “Four years of study and deliberation have yet to produce action from the council. As mayor, I will press for resolution and support their decision(s).”
Linnemeier proposes capturing and sterilizing neighborhood deer, a proposal he said the deer task force says most citizens support.
“From the very beginning it appeared to me that the best solution to the problem would be to dart the female deer with an anesthetic and then sterilize them while they were under,” he said.
But while the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which is responsible for managing wildlife in the state, does not allow such capture-and-release programs, Linnemeier said the city could do so as research. Such an approach is underway in Fairfax, Va., he said.
“Indiana University has a superb biology department, and I’m sure we could easily find a zoologist with all the necessary bona fides to come up with a research proposal for ongoing research into controlling urban deer populations using sterilization,” he said, citing Ball State, Purdue, or even Cornell as other possibilities.
If the DNR refused, Linnemeier said, State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-61, could introduce legislation that would make Bloomington an exception to the DNR’s rules.
“The urban deer problem in our neighborhoods will not solve itself,” he said. “And kicking the can down the road again is not my way of doing things. I may have a solution that will be palatable to most citizens and make ecological sense as well.”
Steven Higgs is editor and publisher of The Bloomington Alternative.