Monday, March 09, 2009

KANSAS NEWS: Controlled Hunt Proposed for Shawnee Mission Park

A state representative from Eudora has sponsored a bill to create two special bow-hunting seasons to cull the exploding deer population at Shawnee Mission Park in Johnson County.

Republican Anthony Brown wants to allow archers into the 1,280-acre park for nine days in October and nine days in January to shoot deer in a controlled hunt.

The goal of House Bill 2342, he said, is to cull 400 deer from a herd that wildlife officials say is at least eight times larger than the park can support. Any animals not harvested in that time would be killed by sharpshooters, Brown said.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Overpopulation can be dangerous to the health of the deer, people and the park’s ecosystem, experts say. Supporters of controlled hunts say they are done successfully in the area.

Critics say arrows are cruel and inhumane. They are pleading for a less “barbaric” solution that could involve relocation, sterilization or contraception.

Hunting is not allowed in the park, and any controlled hunt would require a change in state legislation.

“With 200 deer per square mile, this is causing a problem,” Brown said.

Brown estimated that it costs $300 per deer to hire a qualified sniper, $400 per deer to trap and relocate each animal and up to $700 to sterilize a deer.

“These options, given the number of animals in the park and the current economic climate, are not viable,” he said.

Brown’s efforts came as a surprise to county parks Director Michael Meadors.

“Everybody’s wanting to rush in and do something,” Meadors said. “Our caution has been … to slow down, take a step back, gather as much information as we can, but to make sure the process is as transparent as possible and includes the public.”

Meadors said a draft deer-management plan will be given to the park board in April. Public hearings will be held in May before the board decides the fate of the deer, he said.

Meanwhile, after months of debate, the St. Louis suburb of Town and Country, Mo., last month approved a plan to kill deer and sterilize does.

Deer overpopulation has long been a problem there, and officials agreed to hire a firm to bring in sharpshooters to kill some of the animals, starting this fall. The sterilizati0on effort has begun but is expected to take years to become effective.

Source: Kansas City Star

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