Controlled hunts could be coming to Eagle Creek Park

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A possible hunt may be the answer to dealing with a deer over-population problem at Eagle Creek park. But there are people ready to fight it if the city signs off.

Larry Peavler, who's lived near Eagle Creek for 40 years, is one of them.

"It's just not right. God didn't put us on this earth to kill everything around us," he said.

Peavler, an avid bird watcher and nature lover, said he's at Eagle Creek probably 300 days a year.

"There's no more deer here than 40 years ago and now we've got coyote getting some of the young ones," he said. "These people have a bloodthirsty vendetta against deer and we're going to do everything we can to stop it."

The people he's referring to are members of the Eagle Creek Advisory Group. Long-time member John Pankhurst describes it as "a volunteer group that provides citizen input to the parks board that's non-binding."

Pankhurst said the group has been following the deer issue for 12 years. Wednesday, they presented the findings of several wildlife experts including one from Purdue University, who's said the park has five to ten times too many deer.

Those deer, according to the experts, are doing heavy damage to the park by grazing on trees and native plants.

"This is not a situation where you see something happening overnight, but it's long-term. There's a degradation to the park's eco-system as is being observed in state parks," said Pankhurst.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has used controlled hunts to limit the deer population at several state parks. However, the advisory group is being careful not to make any recommendations on what to do at Eagle Creek. (There's never been a controlled hunt there.)

"We're not the experts on this. We just recognize there's a problem and we're asking for it to be addressed," said Pankhurst.

Jen Pittman, deputy director of Indy Parks, said the meeting was simply "a listening session," and that no decisions would be made any time soon and without ample input from the public.

Peavler isn't convinced. He's gearing up for a fight.

"This group doesn't have any right to kill our deer," he said. "I'm prepared to go to court if I have to."

Ed Hopper, who also lives near the park, feels just as strongly.

"I've lived here since 1976. This is one of the few years where I've seen fewer deer than past years," Hopper said. "The deer are people-friendly. They don't shy away from us, so it wouldn't be a true hunt. It would be a killing."

If the hunt is approved, it would be highly regulated for a limited amount of time. See current hunting regulations here.