Whitetails in the City
of landscape damage, and several were worried about the ecological health of the park.
With city approval in 2004, the Parkville Police Department, working with the Conservation Department, successfully began using managed archery hunts to reduce the deer population in the sanctuary.
The most recent ordinance change occurred in Independence. City officials there created an ordinance that allows archery hunting on parcels 15 acres or larger that are zoned agricultural, industrial or residential. It also allows for managed hunts in city parks in the future.
“We perceived there was a problem, did our homework on the issue, and passed the appropriate ordinance to deal with that problem,” explained Councilman Jim Page.
City officials feel this ordinance is a good starting point, and they indicated their willingness to make whatever changes are necessary in the future to ensure continued deer management in the city. The police department even created a landowner permission form and developed a brochure to help educate landowners and hunters.
“Overall we received very few phone calls against the ordinance prior to its passing,” Page said. “Since it has passed, nothing negative has been said, but I have had bowhunters call me up to thank me for the opportunity to hunt.”
Communities in the heart of the state also have their fair share of deer conflicts. The pattern of deer numbers increasing when the animals are not hunted also occurs in smaller communities. By the time complaints are common, the problem is fairly well-established and some action must be initiated to reverse the negative trends. The cities of Boonville, Columbia and Fulton are good examples of central Missouri communities that are taking action.
Columbia’s earlier “no projectile” ordinance never defined arrows as projectiles. In the 1990s, the Columbia city council decided to leave that definition of the projectile ordinance alone, thereby allowing archery on private property for those who wanted to target shoot or hunt.
However, the number of deer/people conflicts in Columbia, including vehicle collisions and deer damage to home landscaping, kept increasing. This prompted the Conservation Department in 2003 to ask the Columbia City Council to allow a pilot program of archery hunting on certain city-owned properties. These included undeveloped tracts of land as well as multiple-use city parks. Hunters participating in this program were required to attend a pre-hunt meeting at which they were given maps, a city-issued permit number, a parking permit and an explanation of the program’s hunting regulations.
The program was so successful that it not only continued but has been expanded. Each summer, city officials and Conservation Department staff meet to discuss property additions and deletions to the program, as well as any other changes that might be necessary. The recommendations they decide upon for that year’s hunting season are then incorporated into the city ordinance.
Fourth Ward City Councilman Jim Loveless said the city council appreciated Conservation Department professionals bringing the problem of increasing urban deer incidents to their attention and providing them with a number of alternatives to address the problem.
“It has been particularly gratifying to have our staffs working together to address this challenge in a proactive manner,” Loveless said. “The program provides significant recreational opportunities while addressing an increasingly complex urban wildlife challenge.”
For the last three years, the City of Boonville has relied upon a combination of archery hunting on private land and sharpshooters on private and public land to control deer numbers in the city. The program is coordinated through the Boonville Police Department. Last year, 81 harvested deer were donated to local families. Deer/vehicle collisions have dropped significantly.
In the fall of 2005, the City of Fulton passed an ordinance to allow archery hunting on selected private properties for a few days in October. With the successful experience from that first hunt, plans are already underway for the continuation of the program.
For the Future
Although managing suburban deer through hunting sometimes stirs emotional debate, these working examples demonstrate that success is achievable. It’s good to know hunting is a safe and effective method of controlling the numbers of deer in suburban areas, because many cities likely will have to deal with the issue of deer management—if not now, then in the future.
When discussing the deer management program in Independence, Councilman Page offered this bit of advice to cities experiencing deer problems: “Contact the Conservation Department and work with them hand in hand; use their expertise. Mayors and city council members are not deer experts. Cities need to partner with the Conservation Department and use their knowledge to help make the right decisions.”