Bruce Chambers,, MCT
HIGHLAND — Highland may soon allow deer hunting within city limits to control a pesky deer population that is damaging landscaping and causing traffic concerns on city roadways.
Both Bountiful and Highland have partnered with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to implement a two-year pilot program to discover the best way to address a decade-long problem of growing deer-resident conflicts in urban areas.
Bountiful began the program in 2011 but has discontinued its hunts, citing conflict with residents and insufficient resources and manpower to manage the program with DWR.
Highland, however, could give the OK to hunters as soon as next month if it can work out details with DWR officials.
The plan: an archery hunt.
“We actually encourage and do anything we can to help deer be successful in their population to thrive and grow in mountain ranges and other deer habitat, but within cities it causes a problem obviously because of damage caused in residential property and the public safety dangers of deer on the highways,” said Bill Bates, DWR’s wildlife section chief.
Deer on the rise
Bates said conflicts between urban residents and deer have increased roughly 30 percent during the past 10 years. He said while wild deer populations have stayed steady where hunting is allowed, deer herds are flourishing in urban areas, especially as the resident deer — deer that live in the cities year round — reproduce. There are currently about 320,000 deer in Utah, he said.
Highland Mayor Lynn Ritchie said he gets about 50 calls a year from residents complaining about the deer and the calls have increased during the past decade.
The Highland City Council voted this week to submit the Highland Urban Deer Control Plan to the Division of Wildlife Resources for a certificate of registration, said Highland City Council member Tim Irwin. Once the city receives the certificate and program plans are solidified, Highland’s first controlled deer hunt can take place.
“We’ll look at the number of deer, we’ll tell (hunters) how many deer they can remove and what season dates, and just make sure they are doing it according to state law,” Bates said. “If it falls within those parameters, then I’m fairly confidant it’ll be approved.”
Bates said a small group of experienced bow hunters would then be selected to participate in the program after passing a shooting proficiency test and demonstrating responsible understanding of the program’s rules.
Hunters would be certified as “urban bow hunting specialists,” according to the proposal. Brian Cook, owner of Humphries Archery in American Fork, will serve as the program coordinator and will be responsible for selecting the hunters.
If the program passes DWR approval, the certified archers will then be allowed to shoot deer during a specified period of time, starting perhaps at the end of August. Hunters will be directed to designated areas where the deer will be baited. Hunters would have the option of using tree stands to obtain clear fields of view, Bates said.
Why bow hunting?
Bates said bow hunting was chosen for the program because of its reputation for safety, and its efficiency in killing game in a discreet way.
“Bow and arrow we just felt was the safest and most appropriate way to go forward,” Irwin said. “There are some people that are concerned about (public safety) but the professional groups that we’re using are licensed, professional, expert bow hunters, so I think we’re in good shape.”
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