Bloomington, Interview with former Bloomington Deputy Mayor Maria Heslin about the Upcoming Deer Cull in Griffy Nature Preserve - November 14, 2014

Indiana Urban Deer Management News and Information Archive

 This is a transcript of a podcast of  story related to the Bloomington, Indiana, deer cull-related story  from Ecoreport, available at this link, at timestamp 02:25:


ANCHOR: With a state permit allowing sharpshooting of deer in Griffy Nature Preserve coming into effect this Saturday, this week anti-cull activists made public two cull-related public documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. One dealt with the city’s long term plans for Griffy, and the other with the science justifying the deer cull.
Yesterday activists held a protest outside City Hall prior to the Bloomington City Council meeting. Inside the meeting, former Bloomington Deputy Mayor Maria Heslin, who has been outspoken in her opposition to the cull, brought up information included  in the permit application for the sharpshooting, which the city provided to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
HESLIN:  “It’s come to my attention that there is a section in this permit application called long term management plan, and it seems to authorize up to ten years of deer killing. It sets deer killing as the default position based on how many plants grow and don’t grow, and it also seeks the possibility of on going public archery hunts to maintain deer population. This begs a lot of significant questions. Were you aware of this stated ten year plan? Who reviewed and authorized this? Did the Parks Board do that? Did you all do that? At point was this discussed publicly? Is this the official city policy? You know back when I was Deputy Mayor, policy was made very clearly – made by the administration or made by council. And it was clearly communicated -- it wasn’t tucked away in some application permit.”
ANCHOR: The permit application referenced by Heslin, obtained through a public documents request, is now available online at website. The 2 page section detailing a “Long Term Management Plan” for Griffy states that “complete recovery of the forest understory will likely take 10 to 20 years of sustained management.” The document also states that after 5 years of culls to manage deer populations, Bloomington Parks will review plant population data and decide whether yearly culls should continue or whether they should be stopped for one year to allow the deer herd to stabilize. Parks will also decide at that time whether to institute public archery hunts in Griffy.
A second deer cull-related revelation came in the form of a 2013 email written by local biologist Dr. Angela Shelton, whose research on deer impacts has been used by city officials to provide scientific justification for the cull.
The email, also obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, was made public this Tuesday by local citizen Kevin Haggerty. In the email, Dr. Shelton states that deer pellet count data which she gathered in the IU Research and Teaching Preserve, or IURTP, would only provide an accurate deer population estimate for the IURTP property itself, and not for the city-managed Griffy Preserve. Dr. Shelton sent this email in April of 2013 to City Councilmember Dave Rollo and Parks Natural Resources Manager Steve Cotter. At that time, Dr. Shelton also said that with $500 in funding she would be able to gather deer pellet count data in the city-managed Preserve that could provide a “accurate assessment of the deer herd size in the Griffy Woods area." This proposed research would have taken place during last winter, and would have been finished prior to the introduction of deer cull related legislation in the Bloomington City Council -- how ever the research never took place.
Ecoreport contacted Dr. Shelton seeking an interview. Shelton agreed to answer questions over email. When asked what response city officials gave to her April 2013 proposal, Shelton stated that she, Rollo and Cotter had decided not to move forward with the research because they felt they could produce estimates of deer population in Griffy Preserve solely based on the data she had gathered about deer impacts on vegetation and other animals. However Shelton also confirmed that this data was gathered only in the IURTP, and that she performed no research in the Griffy Preserve.
Anti-cull activists have argued that deer population densities and deer impacts in Griffy Preserve would not necessarily match those in the IURTP. They have pointed out that, as is also documented on the city of Bloomington ’s Deer Task Force website, deer prefer edge habitats, or the borders between forest and open meadows. Anti-cull activists therefore argue that deer would be found in higher numbers in the IURTP, which borders the IU Golf Course, than in the deeper woods of the Griffy Preserve.
At yesterday’s Bloomington City Council meeting, anti-cull activist Sandra Shapshay spoke about the recently revealed 2013 Shelton email, and offered this analysis.
SHAPSHAY: “The evidence for high deer densities in Griffy is shakier than ever. If you cannot accurately estimate the deer densities in Griffy on the basis of a pellet count done at the IURTP, it stands to reason that other data gathered at the IURTP -- and all of the data in the Shelton study was gathered at the IURTP -- also cannot be extrapolated to the rest of Griffy.”
ANCHOR: Councilmember Rollo and Steve Cotter from the Parks Department did not respond to requests for comment on the recently revealed email. Council President Neher also did not respond. Mayor Kruzan provided the following email response:  “I support further and full discussion of all options available to the community concerning the issue.”

Up to 100 deer are slated to be killed in Griffy Preserve between November 15
th and Feburary 28th, and the park will be closed to the public during cull operations.

Also, from an earlier interview on the same topic:   at 06:00


ANCHOR: Preparations for sharpshooting deer in Griffy Lake Nature Preserve are moving forward. In a report this Monday on WFIU, Bloomington Parks Department Director Mick Reneissen stated that all further preparations will be undertaken by White Buffalo, the private company contracted by the Parks for the deer kill.
Tony DeNicola, the President of White Buffalo, says the White Buffalo team has already made three visits to Griffy to survey the terrain in order to help them choose the location for baiting stations. Corn bait will be used to attract the deer, who will then be killed by sharpshooters using lead bullets. The state permit for the sharpshooting operation allows for shooting to take place between November 15th and February 28th, and allows for up to 100 deer to be killed. The stated goal of the deer kill is to increase biodiversity in the Preserve.
Parks Director Reneissen has stated that Griffy will be closed during the sharpshooting, and that signs will be posted in advance to warn the public. However DeNicola from White Buffalo has stated that the public will not be given notice of the exact dates of the sharpshooting. DeNicola asserts this is necessary because if the dates of the deer kill were publicly known, members of the public opposed to the operation might disrupt it.
Meanwhile local activists continue to advocate that the cull be cancelled and non-lethal population control methods be explored. In a press release issued this Tuesday the Bloomington Advocates for Nonlethal and Innovative Deer Stewardship, or BANIDS, challenged recent statements made by city councilmembers Ruff and Rollo in response to a report issued by the Humane Society of the U.S. The Humane Society has stated that based on a site evaluation they made in September, nonlethal population control methods, including immunocontraception and surgical sterilization, could be used on deer at Griffy.
But at last week’s City Council meeting members Ruff and Rollo repeatedly stated their beliefs that there is a high rate of migration into the Preserve by deer from the surrounding areas, and that this would interfere with the success rate of nonlethal methods. They used the term “open system” to refer to this situation, as in this statement by Councilmember Ruff.
RUFF: “All kinds of organizations responsible for land management use deer culls as management tools, because it’s the only one that works in an open system like Griffy Nature Preserve -- not sterilization, not contraception.”
ANCHOR: In response to these statements, the BANIDS release included information from deer researcher Dr. Allen Rutberg of Tufts University. Dr. Rutberg stated that herds of deer living adjacent to each other do not always have a high rate of migration of individuals back and forth, and that the only way to know whether migrants are moving from one herds’ territory to another is through scientific research. The BANIDS release goes on to state that the only existing data on deer migration in the Bloomington area comes from a Ball State study, which showed that fawns in Bloomington neighborhoods have low rates of migration. Councilmember Rollo referenced this same research at last week’s council meeting, when he explained why he believed nonlethal methods could turn out to be more appropriate for limiting the population of Bloomington’s neighborhood deer.
ROLLO: “Now with regard to the urban deer population, we should keep an open mind. What we really need is data, to find out whether deer are migrating or not in and out of Bloomington. Some early data show that fawns tend to stay put in the urban situation. So is this true of adults? We won't knew for a few years. Tim Carter from Ball State is doing that work now."
ANCHOR: The recent press release from BANIDS points out that the results of the Ball State study actually indicate that deer living in urban neighborhoods adjacent Griffy may NOT be migrating into the Preserve at a high rate, and that therefore these migration rates might not be a concern for implementing nonlethal methods in Griffy. The release also states that no data has ever been gathered inside Griffy itself on the migration rates of area deer.

The BANIDS organization is calling for a 2 year moratorium on deer culls in Griffy, so that the city can census deer populations and ask the state for permission to use nonlethal population control methods in the Preserve.
The decision to contract for the cull, with the stated goal of increasing biodiversity in Griffy, was ultimately made by the Bloomington Parks Department. Ecoreport asked the Parks Department for comments on both this week’s BANIDS release and the report issued last week by the Humane Society. They had not responded prior to air time, but Ecoreport will stay with this story.


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