Friday, January 09, 2009

VIRGINIA NEWS: Staunton Wrestles With Deer Population

With more than 200 deer-car collisions in Staunton in the last four years, combined with complaints by residents about vegetation and landscaping damage from the plethora of deer in the city, council members are looking for solutions to control its deer population.

David Kocka, a regional biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said during the Staunton City Council’s Thursday work session that it was not important how many deer the city had, nor was it important to tell the city what to do about the growing population.

Of the strategies available to the city, some are feasible, while others are not, Kocka said.

For instance, he said the agency would not have anything to do with trapping and transferring deer, and said birth control would be effective only if the deer were contained in a concentrated area. Female deer, which can live about 20 years, reproduce throughout their lives.

“There’s no such thing as menopause when it comes to deer,” Kocka said. “They continually breed.”

Indirect control methods, such as repellents and fencing, would only address the symptoms of deer density and not the problem, Kocka said.

In the last four years, the city has had 278 reported deer-car collisions, according to police data City Manager Steve Owen presented during the work session.

“Virginia, like most states, does not have a great handle on deer-car collisions,” Kocka said. “It’s a hard thing to get ahold of. People don’t report ‘em most of the time.”

In addition, Kocka said deer typically eat about three to five percent of their body weight daily.

He outlined several state programs to control deer populations, including out-of-season kill permits to kill antler-less deer causing damage to residential vegetation or agricultural areas.

Kocka said Staunton already takes advantage of the statewide archery season, from the first Saturday in October through the first Saturday in January. He recommended, however, that the city opt into the urban archery season, developed several years ago, and can only kill antler-less deer only. That program runs before and after traditional deer hunting seasons.

If the city is interested in the urban archery program, it must signal its intentions to the agency by Apr. 1.

Kocka also suggested that the city allow people with 50 acres or more to allow access to their property to hunt deer with shotguns during the traditional two-week shotgun-hunting season.

Mayor Lacy King, along with Councilman Dickie Bell asked city staff to put together an action plan that would meet the Apr. 1 deadline to apply for urban archery season. Councilwoman Carolyn Dull said she wants to see a plan that promotes public safety, while Councilwoman Andrea Oakes said the city should consider donating extra deer shot to Hunters for the Hungry.

“It seems like in the last four to five years, there’s been huge increases,” Dull said. “They didn’t do the birth control on them.”

Source: Waynesboro News Virginian

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