Tuesday, July 25, 2006

IOWA NEWS: Overpopulation at Council Bluffs

TIM ROHWER, Staff Writer, Daily Nonpareil

The deer population in Council Bluffs is on the rise, and action should be taken now to control that growth before it gets out of hand, local officials said Monday.

"I've seen more deer this year at Dodge Park than I've ever seen," said Mayor Tom Hanafan.

He also said Fairmount Park is a "haven for deer."

City Councilman Scott Belt added, "The herd at Manawa is getting (to be) a good size."

"It's a steady increase," Public Health Director Donn Dierks said. "We've seen an increase in deer collection, but I don't have the manpower to do it."

"We have an escalating problem," Hanafan said.

Last year, the city picked up more than 200 dead deer from car collisions.

Doug Clayton, a law enforcement official with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, suggested the city consider the use of bow hunting to reduce the deer population.

He said the Iowa Legislature this year passed a law offering more protection for landowners who allow bow hunting on their properties.

"Before it gets through the roof, you may want to implement something," Clayton told the council during its Monday afternoon study session.

He recommended that Council Bluffs avoid a similar situation to that faced by Iowa City. That city put off its deer population problem until it got so bad, the city had to hire sharpshooters costing up to $30,000 to control it, Clayton said.

"If you get it at a respectable level, bow hunting will maintain it," he said.

There have also never been any negative incidents around the country involving bow hunting, Clayton said.

"Bow hunting can work," he said.

The council did not take any official action, and Clayton said the city doesn't have to act immediately if it wants to make sure bow hunting is done properly. This year's bow hunting season opens Oct. 1.

"One more year, I wouldn't see a problem," Clayton said.

The city does allow bow hunting on agricultural-zoned land, according to City Attorney Richard Wade. There's been past discussion of expanding that to residential properties of 15 or more acres, though the few that there are probably would not make a big impact on the deer population, he said.

Wade said that the city might consider organized hunts on city property, such as parks. Tree stands could be used so that hunters would shoot downward for better safety measures, it was mentioned during the meeting.