Each year, the Environmental Restoration Group commissions a flyover census of the deer population in Beverly Shores. At one time, the town of Beverly Shores appropriated funds to support the census, but with the town's difficult financial situation, the cost falls to ERG. In the last few years, Ogden Dunes has asked to be included in the area counted and has paid the marginal costs for that addition.
The flyover census is taken before the spring birthing season so the number underestimate the year's deer count by some amount. The chart below shows that even the understated numbers from the census consistently exceed the upper-bound target for deer numbers in Beverly Shores. ERG aims for a deer population of 15 per square mile, the target maximum for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Beverly Shores itself is about one square mile, but with its surrounding area, the census covers roughly two square miles. Thus the target deer population density, 15/mi2 yields a maximum target population of 30 animals.
The numbers graphed above are shown in the following table:
|Flyover Date||In Town||Around Town||Total|
|March 2, 2010||44||51||95|
|March 28, 2011||37||39||76|
|February 12, 2012||25||19||44|
|March 22, 2013||38||68||106|
|January 22, 2014||54||30||84|
|March 17, 2015||28||27||55|
|March 4, 2016||46||55||101|
|January 15, 2017||37||55||92|
Notice that the deer numbers fluctuate rather considerably from year to year. Note also that the timing of the census has varied from year to year. It is possible that the 2017 figure is higher than the number would have been had the census been taken later, particularly given that the NPS cull took a number of deer in the area in 2017. However, note that the data do not suggest that the January number is inordinately high when compared with March counts. The average March count is 87. The average for January/early February is 73.
The National Park Service has also recognized the threat to our Indiana Dunes environment and has since 2013 culled deer annually throughout the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The park maintains counts of the deer taken in units within the park. The “island” of Beverly Shores is surrounded by the IDNL Dunes Ridge unit, which extends from Kemil Road on the west to County Line Road/U.S. 12 on the east and from Lake Michigan south to U.S. 12. The numbers of deer taken annually are listed in the following table:
The NPS Wildlife Biologist in charge of deer management believes that the their cull has reduced the overall deer population, an impression reinforced by NPS spot surveys of deen numbers carried out in 2012 and again in 2017. Note, however, that the cull continues to take significant numbers of deer and that the Beverly Shores deer counts in the flyover survey for that last two years are comparatively large.
The figure and tables above provide clear evidence of the need for ongoing efforts to bring the Beverly Shores area deer population to environmentally sustainable numbers.
The area of the Beverly Shores island is approximately one square mile. It is easy, therefore, to calculate the density per square mile for the island—it is just the number of deer counted in the island. You can see from the census results above that the number of the deer in the island in our most recent count gives a density of 37 deer per square mile. This number is slightly less than the average density in town, which is 38.6 over the years we have been taking our census. The figure is approximately two and one-half times our target deer density, 15 deer per square mile.
There have been suggestions that we should adjust the figure downward to account for the number of deer taken in culls after the census. For the island, that adjustment number is zero. We were not permitted to cull deer this year and the NPS Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore cull did not include any sites in the Beverly Shores island.
The following map shows the locations of the deer seen during our 2017 census. All of the deer locations are mapped, but some locations are so close to others that occassionally nearby locations are obscured. The yellow line represents the borders of the Beverly Shores island, from Derby Ditch on the west to Montana/Drake on the east and from the lake to Beverly on the south. The surrounding area for the census is roughly identical to the NPS Dune Ridge zone. No deer were spotted in the area east of Central Avenue that is clipped from the image and similary, none were seen in the woodland near the intersection of East State Park Road and U.S. 12. (the 'C's on the map denote coyote sightings.)
To get near to the 15 deer per square mile figure after the cull, we would need to assume that the deer were taken within the island (where no cull occurred) by the NPS cull at the same rate as outside the island (where the NPS took its 53 deer) and that no deer taken originated from outside the Dune Ridge zone. It seems more reasonable to take the census figures at face value. They do not indicate that ERG has reached its target in Beverly Shores. Even if the implausible adjustment is applied to this year's number, the deer count after the birthing season will almost certainly exceed our target, and that figure will carry over to the pre-cull figures for next year.
ERG can take pride in the improvements to the environment in Beverly Shores that our deer control efforts have fostered. We can hope that the continuation of the NPS deer control efforts will help to maintain numbers lower than in the pre-ERG days. But continuing vigilance is crucial to maintaining our beautiful setting.