Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Highland’s Urban Deer Control Program – For or Against?

urban deer

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unwanted and unwarranted Ordinance was propagated by a member or members of previous city officials and now must be repealed and abandoned! The following Highland City Residents are petitioning to have the Ordinance immediately repealed and removed from the books."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 [Please note my original post had these time inverted – my mistake].
  • 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 are 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?

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 the took out deer. Here is some of the information he shared with me.

  • They hunted in 4 public parks plus two property owners ask 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 about half that number.
  • 5,550 lbs. of ground venison was donated through Meier's Game Processing and according to the Food Bank, 5,500 lbs. of venison would or did 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

Other Related Links:

6 comments:

  1. I like having the deer in the neighborhood. Last winter I saw them frequently and they even resided in my back yard off and on. They didn't eat the standing vegetation or cause any damage to the plants. Perhaps they are foraging on others property. I'm in favor of leaving them alone.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your view Tim

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  3. Devirl Barfuss asked me to enter this comment for him:

    I enjoy watching the deer and have managed to minimize the damage to my fruit trees and garden with barriers, sprays, lights, loud sounds, deer Be-Gone, and 200 garlic plants. Today, however, there is a herd of 18, quasi-domestic deer living year round on the golf course and last summer they stripped the grape arbor, ate the tomato plants and ate a young peach tree despite all efforts short of a 30.06 or pet cougar. Deer also carry ticks infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and/or Lyme Disease. Both are potentially fatal diseases. The deer population has gone from novelty to nuisance. They are not wild but homeless domestics. One option to the bow hunt would be to tranquilize them and move them like the Forest Service does bears.

    Devirl Barfuss

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  4. I updated the post with comments from Brian Cook, who oversaw last year's hunt.

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  5. While it is nice seeing the deer come through our yard on occasion, we have had to replace several newly planted trees (both fruit and shade) that didn't survive due to damage done from deer. Direct costs of this damage is tree replacement (several $100s') and preventative cost (nearly $100).
    The petitioners have many incorrect statements and inflammatory language, such as:
    1. "highly dangerous" -- I think this disparages the master archers involved and their skill shown this past year.
    2. "unnecessary" -- It is quite obvious that there are too many deer in Highland causing problems.
    3. ""inhumane" -- Are there any reports of maimed deer walking the streets or that have been found in parks?
    4. "severe threat to the safety of all people, (including our children)" -- How many of our children are up during the pre-dawn and sunset hours scrambling through the brush next to deer?
    5. "encourages trespassing by armed hunters onto the private property of homeowners in pursuit of deer which has already occurred." -- If this has occurred, have they filed a report with police or the city?
    6. "entirely unnecessary" --
    7. "runs counter the the desire of the majority of Highland City residents" -- as they say on Wikipedia: "citation required". I don't believe that assertion can be backed up.
    8. "provides the worst possible example to our children ... injuring and maiming these non-aggressive animals before their very eyes" -- These must be the same children that are up in the pre-dawn/post-sunset hours and wandering the parks. If actual incidents have occurred, these should be made known.
    9. "ill-conceived, unwanted and unwarranted Ordinance" -- Here is more inflammatory language. The very existence of the deer hunt program and its stated purposes rebuts each of those adjectives.

    -- Martin

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  6. Martin. Thanks for your considered comment. Well said.

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Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts regarding this post.