City of Missoula considers culling urban deer herd

2012-04-12T06:25:00Z 2013-12-13T13:38:55Z City of Missoula considers culling urban deer herdBy BETSY COHEN of the Missoulian missoulian.com
April 12, 2012 6:25 am  • 

Urban deer in Missoula, consider yourselves on notice.

Members of the City Council want you gone, and they agree with members of the public who declared you a danger, a nuisance and a safety hazard on Wednesday.

It may take some time and a few more meetings, but the writing is on the wall – the Missoula City Council is serious about taking on the issue of urban deer and making the city safer.

At a joint meeting of the Public Safety and Health and Conservation committees, council members talked about Missoula’s urban deer problem and got a tutorial from the city of Helena on how it has successfully handled the issue.

Since 2008, police there have been baiting and luring deer into traps that are 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide and covered with heavy fishing net.

Each morning, police make the rounds to the city’s 12 traps – most of which are on private property at the request of landowners.

Here’s what happens when they catch an adult deer: First, the trap is collapsed and the netting confines the animal to the ground, explained Mark Lerum, Helena’s former assistant chief of police and director of the city’s deer program.

Then police euthanize the deer with a bolt gun stunner.

Once police have gutted and cleaned the animal, the carcass is taken to a cooler. After several deer have been dispatched and cleaned, the bodies are taken to a meat processor before being donated to the Helena Food Share, which then disperses the meat to low-income families.

Not everyone in Helena agreed with this solution when it was first tried, Lerum told the council.

But there was less of an outcry once the community realized that the animals were euthanized quickly, fawns that were caught were released, and that the operation was conducted in a neat and clean way.

***

It helped too that the police department’s statistics showed the program worked.

In 2005, for instance, Helena’s police department recorded 127 deer were injured or killed, the department received 55 problem calls regarding deer, and 31 deer were involved in motor vehicle crashes.

In 2011, those numbers declined dramatically: 31 deer were injured or killed, 5 were problem calls, and 6 were involved in motor-vehicle crashes.

Council members were eager to hear how the city determined it would harvest 200 deer a year and what the program cost annually.

An East Coast company was hired to help the city determine the number of deer within the city limits and decided that department would target removing 25 deer per square mile of the city. Since the program began, 531 deer have trapped and euthanized in Helena.

“It has made a difference in the number of calls we get,” Lerum said. “We have a reduction in the number of complaints.”

While there is still some citizen opposition to the program, those calls have dropped off considerably, he said.

“We try to be sensitive to the public. ... It’s too bad it has to be done, but it has to be done.”

The traps cost about $1,000 apiece in 2008 and 2009. Given time and labor costs, Lerum estimated that it costs about $160 per deer for the city of Helena.

Volunteers from the police department are paid to do the work on their off-hours, he said.

Councilor Marilyn Marler recommended that the council get a deer population estimate and get estimates for what a similar deer program would cost in Missoula.

Councilor Cynthia Wolken asked Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir to help collect statistics related to deer calls, the kind Helena used to get its program started.

Councilor Jon Wilkins said he wanted the council to explore the issue more before scheduling a public hearing on the matter. And he urged the council to move quickly.

“I know we have a deer problem,” he said. “I get a lot of calls about it.”

Although the council was disappointed to see only five members of the community show up for the meeting, councilors welcomed the public’s comments.

Former councilman Jerry Ballas urged the council to not dawdle on the issue.

“Take some action before the problem becomes out of hand,” he said.

Said homeowner Terry Cestnik: “Their numbers are growing and quickly becoming dangerous to have around. It seems the deer have more rights than people any more.”

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Dave Erickson presents the latest news you need to know about today's headlines in abou…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

All about the bees-knees

All about the bees-knees

Jeff the Nature Guy shares some cool facts about honey bees.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Dave Erickson presents the latest news you need to know about today's he…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

loading...

Search our events calendar