Thursday, June 15, 2006

ARKANSAS NEWS; Community votes in favor of cull

Randy Kemp recently writes in The Sun Times:

It was something over a year ago that we used this space to encourage the Heber Springs city council members to consider a supervised bow hunt inside the city limits to thin the burgeoning deer population. The suggestion came after hearing lots of anecdotal stories - many of them - about the increasing nuisance: sides of cars dented in (dents that look like they should cost $100 that end up costing $2300); flowers and shrubbery eaten; fences bent and damaged...

The broken bones and totaled motorcycle which Yours Truly suffered when an errant buck collided with the motorcycle on Hwy 5 didn’t even figure into it, since that happened on a state highway six or seven miles south of town.

Obviously we at the newspaper weren’t the only ones hearing - or experiencing firsthand - these stories. The idea found favor at the coffee shops, and in water fountain conversations at local businesses, and front porch conversations around town, and equally important, down at city hall.

The mayor and council, recognizing this as a controversial subject, decided to put it to a vote, after discussing it and gathering real data from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and other sources over the period of many months. They wisely took long to debate the merits, remaining sensitive to those citizens who love to watch the local deer slipping through their back yards at dusk and again at dawn, often with spotted fawns in tow during the season for baby deer.

And those citizens, those who will still cringe at the seeming viciousness of a bow hunt this fall, had good representation on the city council. That much was evidenced during the several votes the council took as the idea advanced. Even last Thursday night, three of the eight aldermen voted against the first readings of an ordinance that would prohibit feeding of deer in the city limits. At the final reading, one changed his vote to a yes, but it was still a quarter of the council that voted their own consciences and those of a good number of their constituents with their “No” votes.

But in the end, a public vote among all the citizens of Heber Springs confirmed what we suspected and started kicking around well over a year ago - the deer represent a bigger problem than the quaintness of their presence, and pose a problem that needs to be dealt with.

The council continues to ease into the limited deer hunt with discretion, agreeing to let the Game and Fish Commission run the hunt. Those folks will do a good job overseeing the hunt, both from fairness in awarding permits, certifying safety standards for hunters, and making sure the whole thing is carried out safely.

We know of no one who takes pleasure in injuring or maiming any deer. But the statistics for such supervised bow hunts are fairly impressive. We believed, and continue to trust, that this is a partial answer to a big problem for our growing but still very rural community, where the woods grow right into many of the neighborhoods. We also applaud the city council for its decision Thursday to prohibit their feeding. Hopefully that will send some of them back to the woods and out of local flower beds and gardens and roadways.

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