The city administrator and mayor recently received a petition from a group of residents (98 signatories) who wish to repeal the ordinance allowing bow hunting of deer within city limits. Here is the text from the petition:
"The Highland City Residents whose signatures appear below and on the attached pages, are petitioning the City of Highland to immediately repeal the highly dangerous, unnecessary, and inhumane ordinance, including R657-65 Urban Deer Control, and any other, allowing archery hunters to kill deer within Highland's City limits! These residents are absolutely opposed to the new ordinance because it poses a severe threat to the safety of all people, (including our children), and pets, and encourages trespassing by armed hunters onto the private property of homeowners in pursuit of deer which has already occurred. The ordinance not only poses an unimaginable threat to public safety but it is also entirely unnecessary and runs counter the the desire of the majority of Highland City residents to see and enjoy these animals who ability to survive depends on coming out of the mountains in the winter time. The ordinance provides the worst possible example to our children of how to interact with animals of any kind by demonstrating a 'Wild West' approach of killing, injuring and maiming these non-aggressive animals before their very eyes. The ill-conceived, unwanted and unwarranted Ordinance was propagated by a member or members of previous city officials and now must be repealed and abandoned! The following Highland City Residents are petitioning to have the Ordinance immediately repealed and removed from the books."
I understand that some in our community do not support the program to control the deer population within Highland. I think it is great when residents band together to express their point of view. Relative to this issue I think it would be helpful to review the history and point out the issue the Urban Deer Control Program is trying to correct.
- The Highland Deer Control Program was made possible regulation R657-65 which was enacted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in 2013. Note, the city cannot repeal this regulation.
- The Highland Deer Control Program was unanimously approved by the city council (Brian Braithwaite, Tom Butler, Tim Irwin, Jessie Schoenfeld, and Scott Smith) on Aug 6, 2013.
- The program was implemented to reduce the population of deer which reside in Highland on a year around basis. These deer cause significant damage to the property of many Highland residents (shrubs, trees, gardens …) and create a driving hazard. Please refer to the presentation delivered to the council by Mayor Ritchie and Brian Cook on July 16, 2013.
- The program was prompted by resident complaints regarding the aforementioned problems.
- Cities across the country utilize urban deer hunts to manage local deer populations. It is not unique to Highland.
Below is a short list of the key rules in Highlands Deer Control Program
- Deer can only be taken using bows. Does are specifically being targeted. Note, this does not preclude bucks or fawns from being taken.
- Hunting can only be done from an elevated platform in pre-approved areas.
- “Only high downward angling shots are allowed for maximum effectiveness and safety …”
- Bow hunters may only remove deer between 1/2 an hour before sunrise and 1/2 an hour after sunset.
- This year the “hunting season” will run from Aug 1 through Oct 31. Note, this was updated to end Dec 31.
The question of whether to continue the program will likely be put on the Aug 5, 2014 council agenda for discussion. There are pros and cons to this issue. I would like all sides to be represented during our discussion. My understanding is the petition will be presented to the council on July 15, 2014.
Questions that I think are relevant:
- How much property damage do urban deer cause throughout the year (plants, trees, vehicles)?
- How many (if any) people were injured in collisions with urban deer?
- How much did the program cost the city last year? $2,320 (note the hunters spent $2,970)
- How many deer were culled? 74
- How do we measure the program’s success? Mule deer collisions as indicated by dead deer pickups were reduced by 43% year over year. This does not count deer that were removed by residents or collisions that injured rather than killed deer.
- What are the specific negative aspects of the hunt?
- What are the positive ones?
What other questions would you ask?
I had a lengthy discussion with Brian Cook, who oversaw the hunt last year. The hunters were required to keep detailed records of when and where they took out deer. Here is some of the information he shared with me.
- They hunted in four public parks plus two property owners asked them to come in an manage a few of the deer on their property. The same stringent rules were followed on public and private property.
- 74 deer were taken were taken last year. This year’s hunt would likely take half that number.
- 5,550 lbs. of ground venison were donated through Meier's Game Processing and according to the Food Bank, 5,500 lbs. of venison helped provide 33,000 meals through shelters last year.
- To the best of their knowledge none of the kills were witnessed by anyone and the hunters cleaned up all evidence after each deer was taken.
- The hunt ended well before the deer from the mountains came down to the city to get out of the snow (i.e. the deer killed were permanent residents of Highland).
Local News Articles Regarding The Program
- Highland deer management program yielded 33K meals for homeless, KSL 3-Aug-2014
- Highland deer management 'a resounding success', Deseret News, 4-Aug-2014
- Residents petition Highland to cease pilot urban deer management program, Daily Herald, 27-Jul-2014
- Highland urban deer hunt could begin within a month, Cathy Allred, Daily Herald, 17-Jul-2013
- Highland deer population may have a date with bow hunters, Katie, McKellar, Deseret News, 20-Jul-2014
- Urban Deer Hunt Likely to Spread Quickly, Caleb Warnock, Daily Herald, 12-Oct-2013
Other Related Links:
- State Wildlife Regulation R657-65 – Urban Deer Control which permits Highland and Bountiful to create an Urban Deer Control Program.
- Utah Code Title 23 Chapter 14 contains section 3, 18 and 19 which are referenced in R657-65 as the laws with authorize it.
- Highland’s Urban Deer Control Program adopted on Aug 6, 2013
- Highland City Council Minutes for July 16,2013, Mayor Ritchie and Brian Cook present an overview of the proposed Urban Deer Control Program.
- Highland City Council Minutes for Aug 6,2013, Urban Deer Control Program unanimously approved, see pages 4 to 5.
- More Deer Lead To Increased Urban Hunters, Daniel Kraker, NPR, 12-Nov-2013
- Non Lethal Deer Population Control for Urban and Suburban Environments.
- Urban Deer a Growing Problem for the UK, Daily Telegraph, 13-Mar-2010
- Urban deer hunt back on the agenda, Daily Herald, 6-Aug-2014