Category Archives: Steve Cotter

Hot Air

Bloomington’s War Of The Deer

In these days of Battles Royal over the minutest of controversies, when one citizen disagrees with another the cartoonish verbiage and accusations fly. The most important, direst threat to our very existence as a nation comes from that guy down the street who let it slip at the neighborhood barbecue that he voted for Mike Pence for governor in the last election.

And, of course, those of us who voted for Barack Obama twice are agents of the resurrected Joseph Stalin. People don’t engage in mild disagreements over current events anymore; they battle to save civilization.

So it is in Bloomington’s War of the Deer. Talk to a homeowner in any neck of the woods in our fair burgh and you might come away with the impression that an endless horde of the ruminants is on the march, trampling garden beds, eating pansies, and dropping their yard bombs as cruelly as the various belligerents of Afghanistan have laid land mines.

The city leapt into action and called for an outside contractor — an army of mercenaries as it were — to come into our war-torn town and save us from the invaders. This action triggered howls of outrage from nature-loving activists who portrayed the contractor as little more than a hooded band of gun-happy guerrillas a la the old Blackwater gang.

Blackwater Employees

Mercenaries (Photo: Gervasio Sanchez/Associated Press)

Last night’s session of the Bloomington Science Cafe promised to offer as much bombast and dramatic leaps from the ropes onto an opponent’s neck as any WWE match. The Parks and Recreation Department‘s boss of natural resources, Steve Cotter, and biologist Angela Shelton were scheduled to speak about the deer swarm around Griffy Lake. Shelton, while working at Indiana University’s Department of Biology, conducted studies of the Griffy deer that led to the City Council action to hire the Bambi hit men. Cotter, natch, is all in on the culling.

Just before the proceedings got underway at Finch’s Brasserie, outspoken opponent of the culling plan, Marc Haggerty, approached Sci. Cafe organizer Alex Straiker. “I just want to be assured that we’ll be given an opportunity to refute the speakers,” Haggerty said. I elbowed my way into the conversation.

“Marc,” I said, “How do you know you’ll disagree with them? They haven’t even started speaking yet.”

“Oh, I know I’ll disagree with them,” he said. “I’ve heard their spiel before.”

Haggerty

Marc Haggerty

Straiker assured Haggerty audience members would be able to ask the speakers questions after their presentations were finished. “Okay,” Haggerty said, although he sounded unconvinced. Haggerty’s anti-culling allies have made their presence known at Council meetings; they were thanked politely for their comments but otherwise ignored. I guessed Haggerty’s feeling a tad frustrated these days.

Cotter led off the session, saying the city’s overall plans for the Griffy Lake area are based in large part on University of Delaware professor Doug Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home. [Shameless plug: You can cop the tome at the Book Corner.] Cotter also pointed out the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve Master Plan (2008) can be found online.

Cotter acknowledged that public opinion is split on the culling plan. “I’d say it’s about 50/50,” he said. He then referred to efforts to control various fauna in Yellowstone National Park, where wolves and other predators were reintroduced and helped control other damaging species. He joked that it’d be his preferred solution to introduce wolves and mountain lions into the Griffy Lake area to control the deer, but that might not be a terribly popular solution.

The city, said Cotter, is contemplating initiating an adopt-an-acre program wherein participating citizens could help monitor and eradicate invasive species on their plots.

A audience member asked Cotter if there’s been a deer count yet and he admitted there hasn’t been. Experts, he explained, feel it’s more effective to note the damage deer have done to foliage and animals rather than do an costly and lengthy census. This prompted another audience member to point out deer are eating invasive species of plants so why not use the population to handle that problem. Cotter said the damage deer cause outweighs that potential benefit. “I don’t think that if you let the deer go they would handle that problem by themselves but they are having a suppressive effect,” he said.

Just at that moment, a late-arriving audience member squeezed herself in the back of the room. “Wow,” she stage whispered, “this many people give a fuck about Griffy?”

Griffy

Griffy Lake Nature Preserve Trail Map

Cotter said the White Buffalo Inc. (the culling contractor)’s miss rate when shooting is around 2 percent. The company will use bullets that fragment when entering the target deer’s braincase, thereby causing a quicker, more humane death. The Nature Preserve, he added, will be closed to the public for a day or so each time a culling operation is scheduled

Shelton then took the stage. She projected some photos showing denuded areas of the forest where deer hang out. The deer, she said had stripped the trees of their leaves as far as their necks could reach and had munched the ground cover down to the soil in those places. She and her team had set up 15 fenced exclosures to prevent deer from entering those areas to compare their foliage to areas where deer were allowed to roam freely after several years. She exhibited pics of both types of area; the contrast was striking. The exclosures were lush with greenery while the free roam stretches were not.

Her team did pellet counts, Shelton said. I leaned in to ask another Sci. Cafe organizer, Jim Wager-Miller, if that meant they were counting deer shits. “It does,” he said, authoritatively. Shelton said the deer population around Griffy is eight or nine times greater than those of other similar areas in the region. Much of this has to do with Griffy’s proximity to residential areas, where the deer can also feast on garbage and gardens.

Shelton posted some alarming figures and charts, including the revelations that:

  • Native trees are not regenerating outside the exclosures
  • Spring wildflowers are suffering as deer gorge themselves after winter
  • Some wildflowers may go extinct in the Preserve after 20 years if the deer are left to their own devices
  • Small mammals like mice seem to be thriving inside the exclosures
  • Soil is significantly less compacted in the exclosures

“The deer are having effects on many other species,” she said. “The deer are kind of acting like an invasive species.”

Invasive species, she explained, have the following effects on their environment:

  • They displace native species
  • They reduce native wildlife habitat
  • They reduce forest health and productivity

The deer around Griffy Lake, she insisted, are doing just those things.

White Buffalo will cull up to 100 deer this coming winter, Shelton said. She and her team will continue to monitor the forest’s recovery after that first seasonal kill. An audience member asked if the 100 goal might “extirpate” the deer population in Griffy. Shelton said that’s doubtful but even if it did, deer from surrounding areas would fill Griffy back in “within six months.”

Deer

Casus Belli

Haggerty then spoke. He complained that the opposition to the cull plan has not had an opportunity to speak against it. He also charged that Shelton’s pix of denuded areas of the forest really were from University-owned property near the Preserve, not city-run land.

“Some of us,” he said, “have gone out there hundreds and hundreds of times and we have found a different reality.”

Shelton responded: “I have spent five years out there and I’m completely convinced.”

Haggerty still is not.

Hot Air

Lady Business

I squawked about vajazzling in Open Salon a few years ago. You know all about vajazzling, don’t you? If not, it’s where you get tiny gems implanted around your lady parts because…, well because you have an obscene amount of money and rather than help the needy or something stupid like that, you choose to bejewel your nethers.

I wrote:

Maybe vajazzling is the last gasp manifestation of the Age of Reagan — you know, the fabulous three decades that gave us Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, real-life Gordon Geckos, McMansions, the Hummer H2, gazillion-inch flat screen TVs, Enron, Bernie Madoff, and Lloyd Blankfein. I thought the Great Recession had cooled off this holy land’s fascination with greed and hyper-materialism.

At the time, I figured it was the height of idiocy that women should want karat-ed cooters but — silly me — I neglected to take into account the human race’s capacity for insanity. Turns out one of the biggest growth industries in the doctorin’ world these days is elective female genital plastic surgery, AKA “designer vaginas.”

O'Keeffe

A Georgia O’Keeffe Painting

[Attn. all female readers: be prepared to have the hair on your head stand straight up.] Females as young as 14 are ponying up thousands of dollars for cosmetic surgeons to give their hoo-has the “clamshell” look. This includes the surgical removal of their labia because said flaps are “ugly” or “too long” or “irregular.”

In other words, upper middle class Western kids, of their own volition, are undergoing what many females in Third World countries are suffering unwillingly. Okay, to be fair, fundamentalist Muslims in certain African countries are mandating that females get their clitorises lopped. Kids in this holy land aren’t doing that, natch, but still, they’re getting their gender bits sliced off so’s they’ll look “prettier” and, people, that’s nuts.

Why young teens — and their parents who, presumably, foot the bill — would go all in for a below-the-belt scalpel job to improve the decor of their genitalia is today’s conundrum. How do they know their labia are unattractive vis-à-vis other teen girls’? And to whom would these anatomical structures be repulsive?

Frankly, I can’t imagine a young man beholding his first female genitalia and thinking (or saying out loud), You know, I was all hot and bothered to go through with this but after espying that overly-large set of labia minora, I believe I’ll sit this one out.

Then again, loads of young men are weirdly misogynistic these days so I don’t know what they think about things of that nature anymore.

And what about the bizarre competitions that teen girls have with each other? You know, as in my tan’s better than yours, my teeth are straighter than yours, or even my breasts are rounder or bigger or pointier than yours. The proof for each of these claims is out front, as it were. How do young ladies compare the relative symmetries of their labia? Do they inspect each others’ undercarriages?

This is all too puzzling for me. I think I’ll go back to contemplating something less taxing to my brain, like how can the Palestinians and the Israelis learn to get along.

[For more reading on “designer vaginas” check out this piece in The Daily Beast or this one in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald.]

Deer Prudence

The question of whether to shoot deer hanging around Griffy Lake or not has been argued with some passion of late. The Bloomington City Council recently okayed a contract with a wildlife management outfit to cull the Bambi pop. around the newly-refilled lake because neighbors are sick and tired of the ruminants snacking on their garden pansies, violas, and buttercups.

Deer

Fitting, then, that our town’s Science Cafe gang will present a couple of speakers who’ll tackle the Q. of what deer dig to eat tomorrow night at Finch’s Brasserie.

Angela Shelton, a research scientist in Indiana University’s Department of Biology, and Steve Cotter, Natural Resources Manager for the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, will double-team a talk about Invasive Species in Bloomington and Deer Herbivory around Griffy Lake.

The gabfest begins at 6:30pm and usually runs about an hour, unless the audience presses for more. In any case, the food and booze both are good at Finch’s so see you there.

Schwarber Soars

As your source for all news concerning Indiana University’s own Kyle Schwarber, I’m happy to report that the baseball player known as the Hulk among his former Hoosier teammates is rising fast in the Chicago Cubs farm system.

The big bat he became noted for during his years here is just as potent against professional pitching. In fact, Schwarber’s numbers against minor league hurlers are even better than those he posted in collegiate ball. That could be because he’s benefitting from top-flight coaching or it could be because, well, he’s the real deal.

Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber

Schwarber, in case you’ve forgotten, was selected number four in June’s Major League Baseball amateur draft. Very few experts had him pegged that high but, according to Cubs’ VP of player development Jason McLeod, he’d had his eye on Schwarber beginning in his freshman year and was certain from the start that the catcher was going to be a special hitter.

Schwarber has risen swiftly through the Cubs system, starting out in Boise in June, earning a promotion to Kane County after a week, and in July already has been promoted again, this time to Daytona. Schwarber’s still catching even though many scouts feel his big league future is in left field or at first base. The Hulk’s presence in the Cubs organization has contributed to the system’s ranking as the best in baseball recently by ESPN expert Keith Law.

Even if Schwarber continues to punish minor league pitchers, don’t expect him to make an appearance at Wrigley Field until late 2015 or, more likely, 2016. The current Cubs brain trust led by Theo Epstein believes strongly in getting kids plenty of minor league at bats before exposing them to big league hurlers.

Me? I can’t wait to see the Hoosier Hulk swinging for Sheffield Avenue on Chicago’s North Side. Stay tuned here for further updates.

More On Paris

According to her obituary in the Nashville Tennessean, a memorial will be held for RE Paris sometime in September.

Paris was born and raised in Nashville, as anyone who’d ever heard her twang could attest. It’s not known at this time if the memorial will be held here or there. Stayed tuned here for further updates.

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