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HELENA - The latest effort to reduce the deer population in Helena has been deemed an overwhelming success by those charged with handling conflicts with the animals.

Mike Ottman, a Helena-based game warden with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Helena Police Chief Troy McGee said that their agencies are getting far fewer complaints than in previous years, after removing 400 animals from the urban deer population in the past two years.

"We've definitely seen a turnaround in the number of conflicts with humans, deer getting hit by cars, and aggressive animals," Ottman said. "This has been absolutely successful.

"Back in 2004, '05 and '06, it was pretty brutal with the number of calls we were getting, and there's no question it's tapered off."

McGee points to the numbers, noting how they steadily climbed from 217 incidents in 2004 for his department and FWP to a high of 471 calls in 2008 for deer causing problems or accidents, or those that were injured or dead. After the culling began in the fall of 2008 - with approval from the FWP Commission to trap and kill 50 deer as part of a pilot project - the calls for help because of the animals have steadily declined.

"When this report was done in April, we had zero calls on problem deer," McGee said. "So far this year, we've had only 25 calls total, (for injured or dead deer or accidents) and that's down a lot."

It's not known exactly how many deer live within Helena's city limits. The city commission decided to cull the urban herds after numerous complaints about deer not just eating foliage, but acting aggressively toward people.

Ottman noted that at one daycare, staff members were afraid to take youngsters out to the swings because either does with fawns were acting aggressively in the spring or bucks in rut were aggressive in the fall.

"It used to be that before we'd even leave our houses in the morning, or after hours, at least one (game warden) would have a call every day about an aggressive or injured deer," Ottman said. "We're just not getting those calls in the city limits anymore."

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