Group opposes population control hunts at Enterprise South park

Group opposes population control hunts at Enterprise South park

September 29th, 2011 by Ansley Haman in News

A fawn and doe wander along the southern boundary of Enterprise South Nature Park. Officials are planning to allow a regulated number of hunters access to the park during two weekends in October to hunt deer and turkey to comply with a contract the park signed with TWRA.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

BY THE NUMBERS

Deer harvested in quota hunts held in what is now Enterprise South Nature Park

2004: 29

2005: 78

2006: 56

2007: 45

2008-09: No hunts, administrative decision resulting from Volkswagen's arrival

2010: 51

Source: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Some Hamilton County residents don't want to see hunter orange in their green park.

Controlled archery hunts designed to reduce deer overpopulation on 2,800 acres in what's now the Enterprise South industrial park aren't new. But the land's use as a nature park is.

Some of the park's users began voicing opposition when the county's website warned of closings on Oct. 10-11 and Oct. 24-25 for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency hunts.

Opponents plan to appear today before the Hamilton County Commission at a 9:30 a.m. meeting, said Diane Dixon, a lawyer who represents what she describes as a loose coalition of about a dozen residents.

"This is just an inevitable conflict of interests between different users of the park," Dixon said. "The last time there was a hunt in there, the park wasn't even open to the public."

Hunts began on the property in 1978 after officials from the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant -- a TNT-manufacturing facility that sat on the Enterprise South land from 1942 until 1977 -- asked for help controlling deer overpopulation on its 6,000-plus acres, said Ben Layton, a game biologist for TWRA.

Now part of that acreage, formerly controlled by the U.S. Army, comprises Enterprise South while 2,800 acres remain a nature park. The county, city and TWRA entered into an agreement for TWRA to manage wildlife on the land in 2005. The nature park opened late last year.

Preservation and overpopulation

POLL: Should deer hunting be allowed at Enterprise South?

The park should be a nature preserve, Dixon told county commissioners last week.

Signs in the nature park warn drivers to stop for wildlife, and Dixon told commissioners that those led her to infer that the county wanted to keep the wildlife from being killed.

But Layton said that keeping the park's ecosystem in balance requires managing wildlife populations. Too many deer can damage native plants and stop the regeneration of certain types of trees by eating saplings.

Layton said a major concern when the city and county entered into the agreement was deer running into the road and striking cars, Layton said.

"There were a lot of deer strikes on Hickory Valley Road," which runs through the western side of the property, he said. "Hamilton County became concerned about controlling the deer herd there."

Each two-day hunt has a maximum of 80 hunters, Layton said. Hunters may kill up to two deer, but the first kill must be a female.

"In order to get an opportunity to kill a good antlered buck, they have to kill a doe first," he said.

Hunters also are allowed one turkey.

"There is abundant turkey population down there," he said. "We had several hunters complaining that they couldn't harvest a deer because they were surrounded by turkeys."

Commission Chairman Larry Henry, a sometime hunter, sees no problem with the TWRA population controls.

A fawn and wanders along the southern boundary of Enterprise South Nature Park late Tuesday morning. Officials are planning on allowing a regulated number of hunters access to the park during two weekends in October to hunt deer and turkey to comply with a contract the park signed with TWRA.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

"From an ecological standpoint, the population in there, it's got to be controlled," he said. "You've got an option; you can either have a hunt in there to control them or you can have them trapped and moved."

The latter option is expensive, Henry said.

Sportsmanship and aftermath

Opponents of the hunts also question the sportsmanship of killing deer inside the fenced area, Dixon told commissioners. As of Wednesday, she said conversations with TWRA had lessened her concerns.

TWRA's Layton says deer can jump the fence and that there are gaps and holes throughout it.

"If you had a fenced-in area that's like 40 acres or so, I would say there's a fair-chase issue there," Layton said.

The hunts are limited to bows and arrows, increasing the difficulty, he said.

Another of Dixon's concerns is that residents will find wounded deer and blood and entrails left from field dressing.

Layton said that's unlikely unless a hunter cannot recover the deer. And because the hunts are held early in the week, coyotes and other scavengers should take care of any remains by the time weekend parkgoers arrive, he said.

More than 90 percent of hunters eat the deer they kill or share it with someone who will, he said.

Dixon said she's been reassured after talking to county officials and TWRA.

"My clients do not have an extreme anti-hunting position or anything like that," Dixon said. "It is more offensive to the sensibilities of park users that these animals are going to be killed because they have such personal contact with them -- it seems more like a violation of the tranquillity."

Henry said he hasn't heard too much opposition to the hunts and doesn't plan to take any action on the matter in today's meeting.

Connect with the Times Free Press on Facebook