Fall Creek Woods Natural Area, owned and managed by Fall Creek Township, is closed through January, sparking speculation on social media that officials plan to use the park for a private deer hunt, an accusation that officials have vehemently denied.
A post on the township’s Facebook page Nov. 28 simply stated, “Our Fall Creek Woods Natural Area will be closed from November 15th to February 1st, 2024 for wildlife management. Thank You.”
Comments on the post questioned the length of the closure and the nature of the planned wildlife management. During a phone interview Dec. 1, Trustee Doug Allman said the trustee’s office had been inundated since the Facebook post with phone calls and emails with similar comments.
“There’s just a bunch of inaccurate, nasty stuff going on right now,” he said. “And I’m a bit frustrated.”
Allman, who said he has never killed an animal at Fall Creek Natural Area, said the township has been developing the 80-acre site since 2014 to preserve some natural habitat in the middle of extensive development activity. He said there are no plans to kill any animals this season, but wildlife management sometimes means reducing populations.
“When you look at managing wildlife, especially species like deer, coyotes, which move, you know, they’re not in one place — deer have a square-mile home range at least (and) all these animals are being condensed down to this watershed,” he said.
Allman said to effectively manage wildlife at the site, they first need to get an accurate count of what’s there. The presence of humans on the trails disrupts the animals, making it difficult to count them. So, he said, the first month of the closure is intended to give the animals a quiet period with no people on the property. Then, he said, he plans to go there, sit and count.
Allman, 66, formerly served on Indiana Department of Natural Resource committees and was awarded DNR Conservationist of the Year in 1995. He said his goal is, and always was, to make sure the park is properly maintained so it can be enjoyed for many years.
“This is a special place,” he said. “I want to see it done right. You can’t let things go, and (let) the population of certain species get to the point where suddenly you’ve got a browse line, you’ve got no regrowth in vegetation.”
He added that if the deer population gets too large, that also can lead to more vehicle accidents.
“And then you have coyotes — I’m already getting pictures from the neighborhood of coyotes in people’s backyard,” he said. “Humans don’t need to fear coyotes, but … they will take out small animals — cats and small dogs.”
Allman said the natural area has been closed seasonally every year. The trail was completed this fall with the addition of a series of ADA-compliant boardwalk switchbacks, which led to additional use by members of the public.
The popularity of the trail is likely why people are upset, but Allman reiterated that the closure is necessary. He added that there are additional plans for the natural area, including bat boxes, wood-duck boxes and a canoe/kayak launch.
A follow-up post on the township’s Facebook page with a longer explanation was published Dec. 1. Many comments thanked Allman for his explanation and his efforts. Other comments, while less angry in tone, called for more transparency about when and why the natural area will be closed in the future.