Friday, September 22, 2006

MONTANA NEWS: Task Force Examines Helena Deer Population

By LARRY KLINE - IR Staff Writer - 9/22/06

Jon Ebelt IR Staff Photographer - The deer problem in Helena continues to hang over the heads of government leaders as well as local residents, who often find deer literally at their doorsteps. What would happen if city officials chose to do nothing to corral the growth of Helena’s urban deer herd?

Members of the Urban Wildlife Task Force on Thursday considered that question as part of their analysis of lethal and non-lethal options the city might employ to control the deer population. The group identified one merit in maintaining the status quo — the sight of deer in town is pleasing, members said — and plenty of potential problems.

Outlining issues associated with an unchecked deer herd roaming city streets and backyards allows the group to give the Helena City Commission and the public a clearer picture of possible strategies, state Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Gayle Joslin said. Authorities already manage deer in some ways. FWP wardens and city animal control personnel euthanize injured deer if they cannot walk and move on their own. A city ordinance outlaws feeding deer.

Nothing is being done to control the population, Joslin said, and continuing to allow that unmitigated growth creates a host of issues.

Deer can threaten human safety in several ways. Bucks sometime become aggressive toward people during the fall mating season. Does at times do the same in the spring, when they are protective of their fawns. As the numbers of deer increase, some likely will become more aggressive toward humans, she said, because the animals view people as competitors for resources, such as food and space. They also draw predators like bears and mountain lions into city neighborhoods. More deer also would mean more property damage, more collisions between animals and vehicles, and more health problems for the deer.

In Helena, the animals have been found with viral skin infections, ringworm and growths that blind them or prevent them from eating, Joslin said.

She presented a simple population growth model. Beginning with one buck and one doe, and assuming females would produce one fawn each year, the mating pair would multiply into 120 deer in a decade. Using the same scenario, but assuming every doe gave birth to twins, the original four-legged lovers would produce a herd more than 1,000 strong in 10 years, Joslin said.

Task force member Andrew Jakes said he doesn’t want the herd to outgrow its welcome — a “threshold” of tolerance exists among city residents. Another member, Tom DeYoung, said some citizens already are intolerant of deer. He said he recently witnessed a woman throw a rock at a doe.

The task force also is ironing out questions it will use in a phone survey later this fall. About 400 people will be contacted by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The $10,000 phone survey will be paid for in part by a $7,000 grant from FWP. The task force also has $5,000 in city funds at its disposal.

Some of that money may go to Gene Hickman, a consultant and wildlife biologist, who could be enlisted to determine the size of the city’s herd. In his presentation Thursday, Hickman said he counted 60 deer in the Sixth Ward during a sample survey earlier this week.

The growing population is a relatively new problem. Joslin said the deer population has been noticeably growing for about five years. Some of the dozen bucks euthanized in the city last year were 4-year-olds, and represented some of the oldest males found in the city.

When her father was growing up in Helena, she said, news of a hunter finding a deer track spread fast in the city.

Read more about the herd on the IR’s Deer Diary blog at

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

IRELAND NEWS: Farmers Back Call for Cull--Cite TB Concerns

The Irish Farmers Association has joined calls for a cull on Donegal's wild deer population. Its Donegal Chairman Keith Roulston claims herds of wild deer could be the source of a recent rise in TB cases in livestock in West Donegal and Inishowen.

Earlier in the week concerns were expressed over damage being caused to property by the animals in West Donegal. But Keith Roulston says the spread of TB is also of major concern.

Monday, September 18, 2006

UK NEWS: Proposal to Ease Laws Against Shooting Deer

MINISTERS are considering making it easier for people to shoot wild deer, which pose a threat to woodland and farming as their numbers mushroom.

Biodiversity minister Barry Gardiner said: "Wild deer populations are damaging some of our most threatened woodland habitats and causing millions of pounds' worth of damage to agriculture. "In addition, They are presenting an increasing hazard on our roads."

Details of the proposed changes, which include a shorter closed season, allowing smaller guns to be used and permitting any reasonable and humane means of killing injured or diseased animals, can be seen by logging on to the Defra website at The consultation period closes on October 24.

IRELAND NEWS: Culling Considered in Dungloe

There have been calls for the authorities to consider a deer cull in the Dungloe area as a result of ongoing damage being caused to property in the area by the animals.

Local Councillor Terence Slowey says at least five cars have been damaged in the Chapel Road area over the last number of weeks. There has been a recorded growth of 30% per year in the number of deer in that area.

Councillor Slowey says one man even awoke to find a deer hammering at his front door in the middle of the night.