On May 23, resident Traci Cardenas addressed the Town and Country Board of Aldermen with three pictures of deer with arrows piercing through their bodies. She is opposed to the possibility of these images becoming a reality for Town and Country, as city officials examine different deer control methods for 2011—one being bowhunters killing deer within city limits.
"When deer are shot with an arrow, it's not always a quick death," Cardenas told the board.
Others followed suit in opposition to the idea.
"I have many friends who bowhunt, and they have all said to me, 'You just don't do this in a city,'" resident Barbara Ann Hughes told the aldermen.
Alderman Fred Meyland-Smith, who chairs the city's deer task force, told Town and Country-Manchester Patch he had no idea the issue was going to be discussed at that meeting. He said bowhunting is only one option being looked into for managing the city's deer population and the residents spoke prematurely about the issue.
Meyland-Smith said Captain Gary Hoelzer, who supervises the deer task force, was asked by the mayor and chief of police to assess the city's current deer situation and prepare a list of options for future deer management. Meyland-Smith said a complete list was meant to be presented to the board of aldermen sometime in June, with bowhunting being one of many items up for discussion.
However, word got out before the report was complete.
"Apparently, Alderman (Alan) Gerber, who chairs the conservation commission, put deer management on their last (commission) meeting agenda and requested Captain Hoelzer come to that meeting and inform the commission of the work that he was doing," Meyland-Smith said. “I feel it was inappropriate of alderman Gerber to ask Captain Hoelzer to address the commission before the matter was presented to the board."
In addition, Meyland-Smith said last year the board of alderman determined the conservation commission should not oversee the deer management initiative.
"So, I object to the matter being presented to the commission for two reasons: One, it is outside of their jurisdiction," Meyland-Smith said. "Secondly, it (the bowhunting option) hasn't being presented to the board yet."
Alderman Gerber, however, disagrees with Meyland-Smith, claiming deer management does pertain to the conservation commission, which Gerber has been heading for more than a year.
"In the charter of the conservation commission, one of the items we are supposed to discuss is wildlife, and as far as I am concerned, wildlife includes deer," Gerber tells Town and Country - Manchester Patch, citing a municipal code (see insert in photo section of article) showing "wildlife" falls within the purview of the Conservation Commission.
Gerber acknowledged it was through the conservation commission meeting that word got out to the residents that bowhunting was being considered as a method for deer management. He said the residents should know about it and be part of the discussion.
"I thought this was something citizens ought to get involved in the discussion, so I put it in the agenda of the commission," Gerber said.
Meyland-Smith agrees that residents should be part of the discussion, but reiterates the option should have been presented to the board of aldermen first so all members were aware of all options.
Bowhunting: a legitimate method of deer control?
Town and Country has been struggling in the last couple of years to find a comprehensive method of controlling its deer population. Last year, due to a struggling economy, residents were asked to donate their own money to either lethal or nonlethal deer control methods.
From January to April of this year, there were a total of eight verified and 10 suspected deer/vehicle accidents, a Town and Country police report states.
Allowing residents to hunt within city limits could help the city's deer management methods, said Erin Shank, wildlife biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
"It's certainly complementary, and it is effective in certain circumstances," said Shank, who works as the liaison between the MDC and municipalities, helping them with deer-management initiatives. "We certainly encourage it as the most economical means of trying to maintain the deer population at a more desirable level."
If Town and Country does allow bowhunting in the future, the city wouldn't be alone. Shank said the MDC has helped other nearby municipalities implement bowhunting within their city limits. These include Chesterfield, Wildwood, Clarkson Valley, Bridgeton and unincorporated St. Louis County. Those municipalities, Shank said, have developed very strict guidelines for bowhunting within their limits.
In the past, the city has used White Buffalo, a company contracted to shoot and sterilize the deer, to assist with population control.
Shank said the state currently does not require residents wishing to bowhunt to complete any type of training or test. Municipalities, however, can make it a requirement that bowhunters pass a test offered by the MDC, Shank said.
Despite possible requirements, Alderman Gerber insists bowhunting has no place in Town and Country
"I think bow hunting and rifle hunting have no place in our suburban setting," Gerber said. "Having outsiders coming in for the purpose of killing is dangerous to our pets and our children, and there is no guarantee that they won't kill the collared deer that we already sterilized."
Resident Marjorie Hamlin sides with Gerber.
"Bow and arrow hunting can result in cruelty to animals, as well as danger to local residents," Hamlin said. "I have yet to speak with a neighbor in Town and Country who does not feel strongly about this method of reducing our local herd, which can be managed carefully through nonlethal means."
Shank said in the municipalities that do allow bowhunting, there have never been any cases of people or pets being injured by stray arrows.
"Shots are taken at a very close range. Mistaking your game doesn't happen," Shank said.
As far as residents complaining about seeing dead deer with arrows across their bodies, Shank said it is a tough choice that residents ought to make.
"Unfortunately, you see deer slaughtered by the side of the road every day, and that is not a good lesson in conservation, because those deer get picked up and shipped to an incinerator where none of that resource is used," Shank said. "Right now, that's how deer die in Town and Country—getting hit by cars. It is not pleasant to look at either one, specially if it's not something that you are used to seeing every day."
Captain Hoelzer said he did not wish to comment on the issue until his report is complete and presented to the board of aldermen in June. Meyland-Smith said that after talking to Hoelzer, he knows there are other options being considered along with bowhunting
“Captain Hoelzer has been directed by his supervisors to research the matter and to come back to the board with a menu of ways in which the overpopulation problem can be addressed—both lethal and nonlethal means,” Meyland-Smith said. “Bowhunting would be one element in a menu of options. Whether bowhunting ever gets implemented in our town will be the decision of the board of alderman. We will collectively and collaboratively make that decision.”
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