President’s Letter to Indy Parks on Deer Control

September 25, 2014

To the Board, INDY Parks and Recreation:

Thank you for your attention to the pressing issue of deer overpopulation generally, and in Indianapolis in particular. From the small deer herds of the early part of the last century, when hunting and natural predation risked wiping out white tail deer, conditions have changed dramatically. A constellation of factors in the past two generations has resulted in exponential growth of the deer population nationwide. Laws enacted in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s limiting hunting, the demise of natural predators and the fragmentation of the natural landscape have together enabled the size of the national deer herd to outstrip nature’s ability to support it, and remain balanced.

Research* expressed in white papers and credible articles makes clear the detrimental impact that the deer overpopulation is having on natural systems. Forest and edge ecosystems nationwide are becoming destabilized by over browsing of white tail deer, diminishing the base of a complex and interrelated food web. The destabilization of ecosystems in turn reduces necessary ecosystem services, by which all life thrives. Management of the oversized North American deer herd may be coming too late to reverse some of the ecological damage, but will almost certainly limit future losses.

As a constituency of Indiana citizens, most of whom reside in the Indianapolis area, members of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society respectfully request your serious consideration of the question at hand: allowing the discharge of firearms in a public park, to the end that the deer population in the area, in Eagle Creek Park specifically, might be reduced. To that end, our Society has officially published the following position:

Due to the negative impact on native vegetation of an unnaturally large deer herd in Indiana, the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society supports a reduction in the number of deer in this state. This reduction in numbers should be based on sound science and game management principles, as determined by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

This is a considered opinion, and one that was not easily agreed upon. We, as a group, are lovers of nature, but we strive to see a whole picture. As stewards of the natural order, it is incumbent on us to study it, understand it and manage it well. There may be a better answer for the control of the deer population than killing deer, but until that answer is found to be practicable, it is critical that the means we now have at hand be employed.
Thanks very much for your service to our city, and for your consideration of our position on the question at hand.

Respectfully submitted,
Jeffrey L. Pitts, President
INPAWS (Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society)

*a selection of articles:

Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics: ; The Nature Conservancy: ;
Smithsonian: ; On Science:


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