Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WEST VIRGINIA NEWS: City Council Seeks More Data on Deer Impacts

The Morgantown City Council is waiting for more discussion and data to be collected before authorizing a controlled bow hunt within city limits.

The council heard a report from the city’s Urban Deer Committee and concerns from members of the community regarding the proposed bow hunt meant to control the deer population. While the council is waiting before authorizing a hunt, it indicated it would act as quickly as its next regular meeting to pass an ordinance to ban the feeding of deer.

The committee, headed by Dave Samuels, a former wildlife management professor at West Virginia University, proposed several measures, including a controlled bow hunt, to curb the deer population.

"Our approach is to try and use as much science as possible," Samuels said. "But you are going to have anecdotal evidence."

Community members expressed concern over collecting data before a hunt is permitted.
Hunts are highly controlled, Samuels said, and would only take place in select locations.

"Never has there been an accident with an urban bow hunt in the United States involving a non-hunter," he said.

Studies from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and anecdotal evidence from residents indicate overpopulation of deer, Samuels said. Two to five deer per square mile is an acceptable number within city limits, he said, but he has seen photos showing up to 17 deer in one yard.

The ecology of parks in the Morgantown area, including the WVU Core Aboreatum, Samuels said, has been greatly disturbed by the large deer population. He said many types of wildflowers have been eradicated from the Arboreatum, and those present are there because they are not appetizing to deer.

Barton Baker, a professor with the WVU division of plant and soil sciences, told Samuels approximately $400,000 of grant money was lost because of deer overpopulation around the WVU organic farm.

Many within WVU’s Agricultural Sciences Department had asked for an urban deer hunt for almost a decade, Samuels said.

Randy Hudak, vice president of Facilities Management at WVU, represented the University on the committee and was able to gain administrative support, Samuels said.

Samuels’ other suggestions included: the council adopting regulations prohibiting the feeding of deer within city limits; a section of the city’s website be dedicated to receiving complaints regarding deer and endorsed the use of repellents to deter deer from feeding on plants around peoples’ homes; and deer "exclosures" be built in parks throughout the city, including the Arboreatum.

While the committee is not totally sold on a comprehensive deer "census," Samuels said it was not a bad idea. He also said for many people on either side of the debate the exact number of deer is unimportant.

Source: Daily Athenaeum

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