In the past, Town and Country residents have approached the board of alderman and said the city is placing too much emphasis on lethal deer-control methods. At a December board of aldermen meeting, resident Mariette Palmer called Town and Country Police Captain Gary Hoelzer, head of the deer task force, a hunter with a bias toward killing the deer.
Hoelzer, however, said he does not hunt.
"I think it's a highly sensitive issue and people have very strong feelings about this it — but I don't take it personally," Hoelzer said. "I don't hunt by the way."
Residents witnessed the high sensitivity of the issue at the most recent board of aldermen meeting, when the board censured Alderman David Karney for "inappropriate and improper behavior as an elected public official." The censure comes after a threatening e-mail tied to the deer management issue was received by Alderman Fred Meyland-Smith, who is part of the deer task force. That e-mail was traced back to Karney's computer, but he denies sending the document.
The e-mail reads as follows:
"You should be ashamed of yourself. The deer are what make Town and Country such a nice place to live. It's aldermen like you who should be shot.
"I will go to our house of G-D this weekend and pray for you. It seems you have lost your Christian values.
"Hope that someday you will realize your sins in this wasteful killing of wildlife."
Palmer said she thought the email went too far, but also says people are frustrated and feel the aldermen are not representing their wishes.
"The vast majority of the people of Town and Country are against the lethal methods," Palmer said.
According to a 2008 public phone survey conducted by the city of Town and Country, 67 percent of the 400 residents polled supported the use of contraceptive drugs as a means of deer population control.
However, contraceptive drugs were never used. The method of surgical sterilization is done instead, along with sharpshooting.
Erin Shank, urban wildlife biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), has worked with Town and Country and other municipalities as a technical adviser on the issue of deer management. Shank said the drug in question is PZP (Porcine Zona Pellucida), which is FDA approved.
Shank said the disadvantage of this drug is that is not permanent, and the doe have to be given an booster every year.
"It would be even more expensive and inefficient than surgical sterilization," Shank explained.
Hoelzer said that the city has worked very hard to try to please residents on both sides of the issue. From 2002 to 2007, the city did not have a deer-management program, according to a city report, which allowed the population of deer to increase freely.
Hoelzer said in 2007, realizing the hazard the deer represented, residents approached their board of aldermen at meetings demanding something be done about the issue. Residents of the Mason Valley subdivision are some of the most affected by the deer, according to city reports. Out of 150 households in that area, 130 signed a petition demanding their elected officials take action.
The board of aldermen created the deer task force in 2007 with the purpose of studying the issue and coming up with a recommendation.
"The deer task force held over two dozen meetings," Hoelzer said. "They conducted two town hall forums, invited experts and listened to public input. They analyzed all that data and came up with a recommendation which was overwhelmingly passed."
That recommendation outlined the guiding principals for the city to manage the deer population.
The deer task force also recommended that surgical sterilization be vigorously pursued, PZP would not be used at that time and lethal means must be used until sterilization has an impact.
Shank said sterilization will not reduce Town and Country's problem.
"It is about as inefficient as it gets," Shank said. "You would need to sterilize about 80 percent in order to reduce the population. That is not realistic — it's almost impossible. It's highly inefficient, time consuming and stressful on the animal."
Palmer said she would like to see input from an organization different from the MDC.
"As a human being I have reverence for all life," Palmer said. "It's not necessary to reduce the deer any further. "The MDC is very pro-hunter and we need an urban policy where there is not this type of violence against the deer."
Shank said she understands the Town and Country government is trying to please its constituents, but the city will continue to suffer from an overpopulation of deer until lethal methods are increased.
"They can try to discredit our agency and our service," Shank said. "But city leadership has to step up and say 'enough is enough.' If you are not going to manage your deer with sharpshooting, you are going to manage them with your cars."
READ RELATED STORIES: