Springfield Nature Center program to discuss managed hunt

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – In Springfield, as in many other U.S. cities, deer lead a dual existence.

On one hand, deer provide interesting nature viewing opportunities to urban dwellers. However, these large mammals quickly lose their appeal when they pose traffic risks to city drivers or feed on gardens, ornamental shrubs and other vegetation. In areas such as nature centers, urban parks or other public-use sites, deer can congregate to an extent that is problematic to the facility and the animals’ own health.

In an effort to reduce problems posed by growing deer numbers in southeast Springfield, a managed archery hunt will be held Dec. 10-12 at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Springfield Conservation Nature Center. People can learn more about the challenges being posed by deer at the Nature Center and elsewhere in Springfield at the program “Managing Urban Deer Populations” from 7-8:30 p.m., Nov. 3 at the Nature Center. This program is for ages 10-adult. This program will discuss Springfield’s bow hunting ordinance, the managed hunts on City Utilities properties at Fellows Lake and Lake Springfield and the upcoming hunt at the Nature Center. People can register for this program by calling 417-888-4237.

“We don’t want to eliminate deer from the Nature Center because we know seeing them is one reason visitors come to our facility,” said Springfield Nature Center Manager Linda Chorice in reference to the December managed hunt. “However, we also value the natural communities that are being harmed by too many deer and we want to ensure that deer populations are healthy. There has to be a balance.”

Six archery hunters have been selected through MDC’s managed hunt drawing process to participate in the Nature Center’s December hunt. They will be required to hunt from elevated tree stands while maintaining a distance of at least 35 yards from adjacent residential areas. Hunters will be allowed to take three deer, only one of which may be antlered. Hunters must check in at least one antlerless deer before harvesting an antlered deer. Hunters must attend a pre-hunt orientation. During the three-day hunt, the Nature Center trails will be closed to ensure a successful and safe hunt. The building will remain open for visitation on Dec. 10 (Saturday) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Other MDC Nature Centers have managed deer hunts, some of which have been going on for a number of years. (MDC’s Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Kansas City has had a managed deer hunt since 2001.) This is not MDC’s first managed hunts in the Springfield vicinity; managed archery hunts have taken place on City Utilities properties at Fellows Lake since 2009 and Lake Springfield since 2011.

The Dec. 10-12 managed hunt at the Nature Center is one component of a city-wide strategy to control Springfield’s urban deer population. It, along with Springfield City Council’s bow-hunting ordinance passed in 2014 allowing archery deer hunting within city limits and the managed hunts at Lake Springfield and Fellows Lake, are part of a comprehensive plan to help keep deer numbers inside Springfield’s city limits at a level that’s safe for citizens and healthy for deer.

“This managed archery hunt is not seen so much as a hunting opportunity, but rather a tool for Springfield’s urban deer management,” said MDC Urban Wildlife Biologist Ashley Schnake. “The goal is to decrease deer numbers to benefit all wildlife that call the Springfield Nature Center and surrounding areas home.”