Deer Management Program
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​Deer Management Program
Eagle Creek Park

With the goal of preserving Eagle Creek Park for future generations to enjoy, the City is implementing a long-term deer management plan to diminish the negative impact of an overabundance of white-tailed deer on the park and surrounding areas

Background

Wildlife biologists recommend a population of 15-20 deer per square mile for a natural habitat comparable in size to Eagle Creek. ​

Recent estimates by wildlife biologists from Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Natural resources indicate that Eagle Creek's deer population is as much as ten times what is considered healthy for the Park's ecosystem.  

Impact of Overpopulation 

The overabundance of deer is causing severe damage to the Park's ecosystem and threatening the long-term health of the deer and other species that call Eagle Creek home. 

Overbrowsing by the deer in Eagle Creek has decimated the deer's food supply. Without a sustainable food supply the deer are becoming undersized, malnourished, more prone to disease and more susceptible to parasites. 



Deer are also responsible for residential property damage near the Park, and they present safety concerns for motorists in and around the Park-- as numerous vehicle collisions with deer occur annually on area streets and highways. 

Management Options 

The City's long-term goal is to reduce the negative impact of the deer on Eagle Creek Park and restore the balance of the Park's ecosystem. 

As the plan is implemented over several years, the City will continually evaluate all available​ control methods to determine the best options for the future of the Park. The City will adjust its plan accordingly based on the herd health, forest regeneration, and plant and wildlife viability in the Park. 

Studies confirm that natural areas where a deer management program is in place see healthier deer, reduction in overbrowsing, reemergence of forest understory, increases in shrub nesting birds and small mammals, and the return of native plants and wildflowers. 

Initial Reduction Phase: Wounded Warrior Outdoors

Eagle Creek Park was closed November 28 - November 30 for the initial phase of the Deer Management Program. Wounded Warrior Outdoors utilized 24 participants, 11 of which were local disabled veterans. The activities were executed safely and successfully reduced the herd by 148 deer (26 bucks and 122 does). The 1,740 pounds of venison yielded were donated to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana​, with processing fees paid for by Farmers Feeding the Hungry, Inc.

Reduction Phase Two: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The Department of Parks and Recreation, working in close coordination with the USDA,  will begin phase two of the Deer Management Program on the west side of Eagle Creek Park. Activity will begin on January 12th and will take place during hours when the park is closed to the public. These activities will not interrupt normal activities or hours of operation. Eagle Creek Park, including its trail system closes at dusk. The equipment and techniques used by the USDA Wildlife Services are all selected to allow for safe, humane, and effective operation. USDA will have night vision equipment that will ensure accurate identification of all objects. 

UPDATE: Phase two resulted in the culling of 101 deer from the west side of Eagle Creek Park, and an additional donation of 3434 pounds of venison to Gleaners Food Bank (including Phase one a total of over 5000 pounds).  A total of  249  deer were culled for the entire reduction, giving us an average of 48 deer/sq mile (well above the recommended level of 15-20 deer/sq mile).  

Informal observations by park naturalists and volunteers in 2015 show small groups  of 2-25 deer throughout the east side of the park, as well as some encouraging early signs of recovery of park vegetation.

What happens next?


Deer management is a long-term issue.  Deer from uncontrolled areas outside the park will continue to migrate to the park, and new fawns will be born every year.  Since deer can breed and reproduce as one-year-olds, the population has the potential of rebounding to severely overcrowded levels within just a few years.  

The USDA will provide analysis and further recommendations for Eagle Creek's long-term deer management plan later this year.