Lawsuit challenges proposed deer hunt in Indianapolis park, claims board overstepped authority

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INDIANAPOLIS — A lawsuit is challenging the city of Indianapolis' plan to allow deer hunting for the first time ever in a city park.

The lawsuit filed Monday by Wayne Larry Peavler claims the city parks board overstepped its authority when it approved the hunt at Eagle Creek Park without proper notice and public comment and that it inappropriately circumvented the City-County Council. It also claims the city hasn't adequately proven the deer are so overpopulated that a hunt is necessary.

Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard, said the city held informational meetings and solicited comment from the public to let neighbors what was being proposed.

However, Peavler's attorney said the public discussion process was not balanced.

"While members of the public had two minutes apiece, the folks who wanted to shoot the deer — I didn't add up the time — but they probably had over an hour between them, so that's been frustrating," attorney Arend Abel told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1sy2i4e ).

Lotter said permits and contracts for the proposed hunt have not been completed.

"We're still several weeks if not a month out from when anything actually takes place," Lotter said. "As we get closer, I know they have a plan in place to be letting nearby residents and park users know about when that's going to take place."

The parks board unanimously approved the deer cull Sept. 25 after hearing testimony from experts who said the 3,900-acre northwest side park has so many deer that they were damaging its ecology by eating native tree and plant seedlings down to extremely low levels. The panel voted to endorse a proposal for deer hunts by disabled military veterans, followed by a team of professional sharpshooters.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recently approved a special permit for the disabled hunters to use high-powered rifles, which otherwise are illegal to shoot during Indiana's regular deer-hunting season that begins Saturday. A bullet from such rifle can potentially travel for miles if it doesn't strike something first.

Indianapolis Department of Public Works spokesman Scott Manning said the hunters will be positioned in such a way that the rounds will be fired into hills or other backdrops to prevent accidents.

Officials in Bloomington decided last spring to allow sharpshooters to kill deer in a city-owned nature preserve. The Bloomington parks board has approved a $31,000 contract for sharpshooters to kill up to 100 deer in the 1,200-acre Griffy Lake nature preserve during scheduled hunts starting this month.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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