Wednesday, February 07, 2007

U.S.A. News: More Cities and Towns Cull Deer

Charisse Jones, USA TODAY
The nation's swelling deer population is prompting a growing number of towns and cities to permit hunting within their borders, much of it by bow and arrow. The goal: reduce the number of traffic collisions involving deer and ease conflicts between the animals and their human neighbors.
Motorists are involved in more than 1 million accidents a year involving deer. That has led several states to lift Sunday bans on hunting or test animal- detection systems that warn drivers of nearby deer. Among communities adding limited hunts to their strategy:

•Fort Smith and Barling, Ark., lifted a hunting ban in a 7,200-acre area that lies in both towns. One hundred permits were sold for bow hunting this season, which ends Feb. 28. The hunt was set up because of concerns there might not be enough food for deer and the risk of the animals roaming into the area as it fills with new homes and businesses, says Sandy Sanders, director of a local redevelopment authority.

•Kansas City, Mo., had bow hunts for the first time in two public parks. From late November to Dec. 10, 41 deer were killed, says Debra Burns, urban wildlife biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. The City Council authorized the hunts after learning that at least 400 deer a year were hit by vehicles within the city, Burns says.

•Warsaw, Ind., in November authorized archers to hunt deer for three weeks this winter. "It was a baby step," Councilman Jeff Grose says of the hunt, which led to the killing of 20 deer. "We felt the residents in that area had a legitimate argument to declare the deer population as a nuisance."

•Alamosa, Colo., is allowing hunting by bows and shotguns on a city-owned golf course until Feb. 28. The hunt comes after incidents in which deer killed backyard pets, caused property damage and were hit by vehicles. "This won't decrease the population," City Manager Nathan Cherpeski says. "At best, it's going to slow the growth."

Suburbs of Des Moines, St. Louis, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, have staged bow hunts or are considering them.

North Carolina's Wildlife Resources Commission will vote March 7 on whether to permit a five-week bow-hunting season, the first time hunting would be allowed within city or town limits. If approved, each community would decide whether to allow the hunts.

"It's a way to help control the population," says Fred Harris, the commission's deputy director. The proposal was "generally" supported at nine public hearings around the state in January, Harris says.

Some animal-rights advocates say the hunts cause more harm than good. Laura Simon of the Humane Society of the United States says the chances of traffic accidents increase as hunted, scared deer dart across roads. Towns can keep deer from traffic by using reflectors or fencing, and residents can make their gardens unappealing with repellents or flowers that deer dislike, she says.

Towns authorizing deer hunts have imposed safety rules. Among them: Hunters must keep at least 100 yards away from any building. "We tried to take a situation that has risk with it and make it as safe as we could for not only the archers, but the deer and the residents in the area." Grose says.