More deer hunts recommended at Enterprise South Nature Park

More deer hunts recommended at Enterprise South Nature Park

June 2nd, 2012 by Ansley Haman in News

A fawn and doe wander along the southern boundary of Enterprise South Nature Park. Officials allow alimited number of hunters access to the park during two weekends in October to hunt deer and turkey.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

INFORMATION REQUESTED BY CITIZEN GROUP OPPOSING HUNTS

• Specific number of deer harvested in 2011, with reports of weight, sex and estimated age;

• Specific number of turkey harvested in 2011;

• Specific reports of traffic accidents caused by deer in the area of Enterprise South Nature Park;

• Specific reports of non-automobile property damage caused by deer in the area of Enterprise South Nature Park;

• Reports of methods used to determine a census of the wildlife in the park, and the census made, if any;

• If reporting observations about the deer's feeding areas, and photographs of examples of the types of observations made;

• The number of acres available for deer and turkey hunting in Tennessee and the proportion that Enterprise South Nature Park represents relative to the overall available acreage;

• Other methods employed in Tennessee for culling an area overpopulated by wildlife where hunting is not deemed an acceptable method, for safety reasons or for any other reason, and the efficacy of such methods to reduce the overpopulation;

• Any efforts made by TWRA in the time that has elapsed since the previous hunt to explore other methods of managing the ecosystem or population of wildlife in Enterprise South Nature Park.

Source: Letter to Hamiton County officials

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency wants to hold two deer hunts in Enterprise South Nature Park this fall.

"Right now we will be recommending to continue the hunts there," TWRA game biologist Ben Layton told Hamilton County commissioners Thursday. "We'd like to kill or harvest a few more antlerless deer."

The commission contracts with TWRA to manage the deer population on county land.

He said the hunts are necessary to control deer population in the park and surrounding areas. The hunts, which date back to as early as 1978, began when the U.S. Army asked TWRA to control population on the former Volunteer Army Ammunition site that now has become the nature park.

At the meeting, commissioners signaled they would support holding the hunts again.

"I'm going to trust your judgment," Commissioner Joe Graham said.

Layton said TWRA wants to hold one archery hunt and one wounded warriors hunt for military veterans that would allow the use of muzzleloaders and shotguns.

Last year, after a group of county residents challenged the necessity of the hunts, commissioners requested that Layton make a six-month report about deer in the park. One of those residents, attorney Diane Dixon, sent a letter to county officials in January, asking them to seek a TWRA report containing nine categories of information.

TWRA records show there have been 12 collisions between deer and automobiles near the park since last October's hunts, which harvested about 50 deer, Layton told commissioners.

With thermal-imaging equipment, TWRA staff conducted a multi-night survey and estimated there are 44 deer per square mile. The park is roughly 4.4 square miles, and Layton cautioned that the actual range could be anywhere from 22 to 91 per square mile.

But the 44-deer figure, if accurate, would be more than a wooded park such as Enterprise South could support, he said.

"That is probably what you would see in an agricultural area" where there are open fields, crops and other food sources for deer, he said.

In addition to a census, TWRA also conducted parasite counts from last year's deer, he said, and the preliminary study indicated there are still too many deer. High numbers of parasites indicate an overcapacity of deer.

Dixon listened to a recording of Thursday's meeting and said she was pleased that Layton provided more details, including an estimated census number and information. But commissioners didn't ask for alternate methods of thinning the deer population, or the number of available acres for area hunting outside of the park and the percentage of available hunting area the park represents, she said.

"The fact that no member of the commission even thought to ask about alternative methods for thinning the deer population confirms my impression that the commission is culturally out of touch with the more progressive members of our citizenry who do not embrace hunting as a desirable recreational activity in a taxpayer-funded public nature park," Dixon wrote in an email.