HELENA - Police here are renewing the effort to rid the city of problem deer.
As of Sunday, they’ll be able to trap and kill up to 60 deer in December that reside within the city limits as part of the ongoing effort to cull the urban deer population in Helena. It’s the end of the 2013 urban deer removal project, in which the city was authorized to take 200 deer this year to try to get their numbers to around 25 per square mile.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission will decide on Dec. 12 whether to continue the program in 2014.
“Since we began removing deer in fall of 2008, a total of 670 deer have been removed by the Police Department,” Chief Troy McGee wrote in an email. “Next week, officers will begin removing deer. This will involve trapping the deer, putting them down, dressing the carcass, taking it to a local meat processor where the meat will finally end up with Helena Food Share.”
The trapping and killing of the urban deer is done by officers who have volunteered for the extra duty. They use bolt guns in the early morning hours to kill the deer in what’s a relatively unobtrusive manner.
McGee notes that the black traps, which are baited with a bowl of fruit and oats, are only put in places where landowners are reporting problems with deer. Those issues can include aggressive deer chasing people and pets; destruction of private property; and motor vehicle crashes.
According to McGee, in the past decade the police department has received 2,417 calls about dead and injured deer, problem deer and motor vehicle crashes. The height of the problem appears to have been in 2008, when it received 363 calls. After the culling program began, the number of incidents dropped in 2009 and 2010, but has hovered in the 200 range in the past three years. As of Nov. 25 this year, the department has received 179 complaints.
It costs the city about $15,000 annually to remove the deer.
McGee said the department is still in need of private property locations to trap deer, in particular in the lower west side of Helena. Interested residents can call 447-8479 and leave a message with contact information for the urban deer removal coordinator.
The city’s request to remove 70 mule deer next year received initial approval from the FWP Commission in November, but that board also urged the city to consider trapping and relocating the deer in the future. Next year’s removal authorization would be valid through Dec. 31, 2014, with a no-take period extending from April 1 through Nov. 14.
The commission noted that mule deer numbers have dropped around Montana, which is why the city might need to consider relocating them instead of killing them. A Helena resident opposed to the trapping and killing also asked the city to explore contraception for the deer.
The public has until 5 p.m. Dec. 9 to comment on the city’s request. Comments can be posted online at http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/publicComments/2013-14helenaUrbanDeer.html or by regular mail to: FWP–Wildlife Division, Attn: Public Comment, P.O. 200701, Helena MT, 59620-0701.
For more information, people can call the FWP Wildlife Bureau office at 444-2612.
Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org