Downtown Deer

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

hunting, where appropriate, to control deer numbers. Hunters alleviate the problem for nothing and use the meat to feed their families.

Certainly, hunting is not the answer in all urban areas. Discharging firearms in some cities is likely to bring squad cars, and some cities even have ordinances against the discharge of archery equipment, even though shooting accidents in archery hunting are rare.

Urban areas also are short on public hunting lands. But to allow people who do have a place to hunt in urban areas to harvest more deer, the Conservation Department allows urban archery deer hunters to purchase and use as many as five Urban Archery Deer Hunting permits. These $5 permits allow hunters to take deer with bow and arrow in units 22, 58 and 59, which comprise Columbia, Kansas City and St. Louis regions, respectively.

According to Lonnie Hansen, the state's deer biologist, the availability of the Urban Archery Deer Permit dramatically upped the archery take in the metro areas. In fact, St. Louis County led the state in deer taken by archery methods during the 1996 season with 625 deer harvested. Boone County was second with 601 deer killed.

Urban archers by themselves can't control deer populations, however. They aren't allowed access to much of the deer's habitat, or deer concentrate where hunting is not allowed.

Another solution is managed hunts, where hunters are allowed into certain areas on designated days, using specific weapons, such as archery equipment or muzzleloading firearms. Managed hunts concentrate carefully monitored hunting activity into a short time period, with minimal disruption to other uses of the areas.

Managed hunts are successfully controlling deer populations at many state parks and in many urban conservation areas and parks. At Fleming Park in Jackson County, for example, managed muzzleloader hunts in two consecutive seasons reduced the deer concentration in that area from 195 deer per square mile to about 48 per square mile. The management goal for the park is 30 to 40 per square mile, and thanks to hunting, that goal looks achievable.

Controlling deer populations in all of our metropolitan areas may not be feasible through hunting alone, however.

"It's a dilemma," Hansen said. "We'd rather do it through hunting, but some areas are not conducive to hunting and we'll probably have to go in with trapping, sharpshooters or pest control companies authorized to do deer control."

For the time being, the Conservation Department will rely on hunting as its primary tool for urban deer control. It will also continue to monitor urban deer populations with winter flyover counts and has recently launched an urban deer project in the west St. Louis County area, where researchers are radio-tracking deer to determine the demographics, movement and mortality of the urban deer herd.

The Conservation Department is able to provide recommendations and technical assistance to communities and individuals suffering from deer problems, but many people balk at management of any kind.

"It's difficult to do proactive deer management in urban areas," Hansen said, "We can say these deer are going to cause problems in years to come and we should do something now, but many people will accept deer management only after they have been directly and negatively affected by deer overpopulation. We're reduced to after-the-fact management - after the damage is done and people have come to dislike them." triangle

Landscaping around deer

Deer are generalists and, before starving, will eat almost any plant; but given a choice, they prefer some over others.

Their favorites seem to be arborvitae, euonymus, mulberry, rhododendron, rose and yew.

Their second choice menu would include flowering fruit trees, fir, pine, serviceberry, dogwood, some junipers, Russian olive, autumn olive and most hollies

Their meals of last resort would include the bedding plants of bleeding heart, calendula, California poppy, columbine, cornflower, forget-me-not, hollyhock, iris, ivy, lily-of-the-valley, lobelia, narcissus, periwinkle, spiderwort and sunflower.

Distasteful ornamentals are barberry, bayberry, boxwood, coralberry, cotoneaster, forsythia, grape holly, hydrangea, most junipers, kerria, mockorange, potentilla, privet, pyracantha, quince, smoketree, spice bush, spirea, viburnum, weigela and witch hazel.

The perennials and vines seldom favored by deer include achillea, artemesia, astilbe, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, celastrus, coreopsis, dicentra, some geranium, honeysuckle, Siberian iris, lavender, liatris, peony, evening primrose, salvia, sedum, veronica, Virginia creeper and wisteria.

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