Friday, March 30, 2007

MONTANA NEWS: Helena Task Force Recommends Sharpshooters

Helena’s Urban Wildlife Task Force has recommended officials use sharpshooters in most areas of the city to kill 334 deer next winter. If the city waits even a year, the group’s report said, more than 600 deer will have to be culled in order to attain an acceptable population of urban deer.

The task force’s report said the city now could be home to as many as 500 mule deer, with most living in Helena’s southern neighborhoods. Group members called the estimate conservative. If left unchecked, the population could grow to more than 1,800 by 2010, the report said. The group wants to reduce the herd to about 380 animals.

“Given the situation we’re in, (sharpshooting) is probably the most effective, it’s probably the safest, and while this may sound strange … it’s the most humane,” Task Force Co-Chair Matt Cohn said. “This is going to be the best method to achieve the goal we have.”

The group also recommended the city commission set aside between $30,000 and $100,000 for a deer-management program and appoint a permanent wildlife advisory committee to oversee the program into the future.

Task force members are set to present their report to city commissioners on Wednesday.

The report represents the end of one phase and the beginning of another. City commissioners will hold public meetings and discuss the issue. If they settle on a management plan, they’ll have to submit it to the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission for final approval.

City Commissioner Sandy Oitzinger served on the task force, which reached its decision through consensus votes. She said she’s unsure how she’ll address the deer issue at the commission level.

“How I will vote on this as a commissioner is going to depend on the interaction and dialogue with the commission … it would be premature for me to say whether I’m going to support the sharpshooting option or not at this time,” Oitzinger said.

The task force recommended several other options — including ongoing public education and encouraging the use of deer repellants and deer-proof landscaping. The group approved other options, such as fertility controls and certified urban hunting, which members said could become more viable in the future.

“There are some things that we’ve approved, but they’re on the backburner,” group member Bob Habeck said. “We wanted to recommend the slate of appropriate management options, even though they might not come into play in one year.”

Task force members rejected two options: doing nothing, or trapping deer and moving them elsewhere.

The group said allowing the deer herd to continue to grow unchecked will only exacerbate the problem, and the trap-and-transport option, while popular at public meetings held early this year, has a number of associated issues — it’s time-consuming and expensive, it potentially shifts the problem elsewhere and deer often die during the process.

The full report will be available on the city’s Web site, at the Lewis and Clark Library and at the city Parks and Recreation Department after it’s presented to city commissioners.

The herd

Helena is unique from the scores of other communities across the country that have adopted deer-management plans — the Queen City is home to mule deer, while the vast majority of other cities dealing with burgeoning herds are home to whitetails.

“The task force is plowing new ground when it comes to mule deer, because there are virtually no mule deer plans — they are all for whitetail deer,” said FWP Biologist Gayle Joslin, who served on the task force.

The group believes more than 32 deer occupy every square mile in Helena, and population projections put the herd’s total at more than 700 animals by next winter. The group settled on a goal of 25 deer per square mile, a number some other communities have used for whitetail deer, Joslin said.

In a biological sense, Helena — with its watered lawn and gardens and city limits expanding more and more into wildlife habitat — could feed many more deer. The trick is finding how many deer Helenans are willing to live with, and task force members said total elimination is not an option.

Joslin said 25 per square mile might not be the right number, but it’s a place to start.

Is there a problem?

One of the basic questions task force members considered throughout the process — and an issue they heard again and again from the public — is whether an urban deer problem exists in Helena.

The group’s answer: Yes. And it’s only going to get worse.

“The (human) population that we see is going to grow, and the deer population is going to grow,” Task Force Co-Chair Virginia Niccolucci said. “We would have nothing other than more human-deer conflicts, unless we do something now.”

Habeck agreed.

“Using professional judgment and conservative estimates … we’re on the footslope of (an exponential) growth in urban deer population,” he said.

If city and FWP commissioners can’t agree on a plan for even one year, the problem grows, he said.

“The key thing to know is, even in a best-case scenario, we’re going to be losing time and … it’s just going to get worse,” Habeck said.

In 2003, the Police Department received 103 complaints about deer, most of them calls about dead animals. The department received 16 reports of deer-vehicle collisions. Last year, dispatchers fielded 241 calls, with 30 reported collisions. FWP received 73 calls in 2004 and 162 calls last year.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

OHIO NEWS: Airport Deer Not Content With Runway Havoc

DAYTON, Ohio -- A bizarre incident at Dayton International Airport involved several deer.
Authorities said the animals started throwing themselves at hotel windows, causing several of the windows to break.

Officials said a glass door was also broken where one deer briefly got into the building before running back outside. Minutes later, the herd of four or five deer ran across the airport access road. Authorities said despite the chaos, no one was injured.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

MINNESOTA NEWS: Followup--Deer Cull Continues in Bovine TB Area

Federal sharpshooters have killed 366 deer in northwestern Minnesota, including 125 last week, as part of an ongoing attempt to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis in the wild deer herd and domestic cattle herds there.

The culling action began in February in a 135-square-mile area and will conclude this week, said Michelle Powell, Department of Natural Resources wildlife health program coordinator.
The final tally likely will be around 400 deer, she said.

Bovine TB has been found in seven cattle herds and two wild deer in the area, prompting officials to try to reduce the deer herd there. So far, of the deer killed by sharpshooters, three have shown signs of having bovine TB, Powell said. Those animals are undergoing further tests.

Powell said she can't determine how successful the culling effort was until fall, when deer killed by hunters in the area will be tested for signs of bovine TB. All the deer, except for those that appeared to be diseased, have been given to people to utilize the venison.

"We've had no problem giving away the venison," she said. "We have a ton of people on a waiting list." The DNR will encourage hunters to reduce the deer population in that area through special permits and bonus tags this fall, Powell said.


NORTH DAKOTA NEWS: Record Deer Harvest in 2006

BISMARCK, N.D.--North Dakota hunters killed more than 100,000 deer last year, besting the previous record of 99,600 set in 2005, the state Game and Fish Department says.

Wildlife chief Randy Kreil said the department allocated 143,500 deer gun licenses last year, down from a record 145,600 deer gun licenses in 2005.

Kreil said the overall deer harvest in North Dakota last year was more than 110,000, when combined with the bow, muzzleloader and youth seasons.

The overall hunter success rate last year was 76 percent, the same as 2005 and about average for the past 15 years, Kreil said.


VIRGINIA NEWS: Growing Concern Over Deer Populations and Lyme Disease

FAIRFAX, Va. -- Some Fairfax County residents are pleading for help to manage the area's deer population after a surge in reported cases of Lyme disease.

Infected ticks spread the disease, and deer are carrying the ticks across the county, health officials said. Fairfax County disease program manager Jorge Arias said deer are like a "Metro system" for ticks.

Lyme disease often begins with such symptoms as fever, fatigue and a bull's-eye-shaped rash. It is often quickly treated with antibiotics.

Confirmed cases of the disease in Fairfax County rose from three in 2004 to 82 in 2006. Much of the increase is due to better reporting, according to health officials.

The numbers are rising across the Washington area.

Loudoun County claims half of all the reported cases of Lyme disease in Virginia. In Maryland's Montgomery County, confirmed cases have grown fivefold since 2004 to 216 last year. Instances of the disease are on the rise here, but they are still less than some New England states, which see thousands of cases, health officials said.


SOUTH DAKOTA NEWS: Urban Deer Problems in Pierre

A deer-management program may begin this fall in Pierre, where roaming deer have become a problem in recent years.

A special task force is developing various options to control invading deer, including a feeding ban and killing some of them.

Police will most likely be the ones in charge of shooting the animals.

Roaming deer are ruining flowers and gardens in the capital city, and they're a danger to motorists. Deer also occasionally are aggressive. One resident says a deer attacked his dog.

Another homeowner says her dog was attacked when the dog began to chase a fawn and its mother came to the rescue.

A deer-management plan for Pierre will be finalized in the next month and presented to the city commission.