For six months, Town and Country Police Captain Gary Hoelzer has worked on a 19-page report regarding the city's deer overpopulation and possible control methods. In the last couple of weeks, he has received criticism from residents who are opposed to any lethal methods of deer management.
At Monday’s board of aldermen meeting, Hoelzer presented his report to the aldermen and the public.
"Going forward, I feel my task was to put together a report that was founded on research and what we've learned from deer management across the country and take that body of knowledge and tailor it to our community," Capt. Gary Hoelzer said.
Many residents in attendance applauded Hoelzer for the research and information he provided Monday night.
"I would like to commend captain Hoelzer for the superb effort," resident Chuck Lenz said at the meeting.
Several other residents voiced their support of Hoelzer's work and urged the aldermen to now take the information and move forward with creating a plan to manage the deer.
"I hope we have matured beyond the point of whether we have to do anything or not," resident Walter Plefka said.
Hoelzer said that according to wildlife conservationists, the ideal number of deer is 10 to 20 per square mile, which is what it was before urbanization when deer were controlled by nature and their natural predators.
Now, Hoelzer said, there is an estimated 60 to 66 deer per square mile in Town and Country. This, he argued, creates a biological imbalance.
"It doesn't seem that doing nothing is an option," Hoelzer said.
Hoelzer also pointed out the public safety hazard deer overpopulation can have on the community. Hoelzer said according to the West St. Louis Deer Task Force, there are 350 to 500 deer-vehicle collisions annually in St. Louis County.
Hoelzer offered different options for deer control methods, outlining both the positives and negatives of each one. The options included professional sharpshooters, local police-trained sharpshooters, bow hunting and nonlethal surgical sterilization.
"The strategies I considered are the strategies that are most popular across the country," Hoelzer said.
A combination of both professional sharpshooters and police-trained sharpshooters, Hoelzer said, could be an effective way of lowering the deer population to an ideal standard. Hoelzer said he would like that standard to be 30 deer per square mile in a period of two years.
"We're at 66 now, and 30 is attainable," Hoelzer said. "After we reach 30 deer per square mile, then in 2014 the city can decide how to go forward with deer management. "
Another option was bow hunting, a method which has been criticized by residents in the past. Hoelzer said he understood it was controversial, but thought it was necessary to include it in the report.
"I felt it was necessary to include it if you were to have a comprehensive report," Hoelzer said.
Bow hunting, he said, is one of the safest forms of hunting in a suburban area. However, Hoelzer said bow hunting should not be considered alone, but rather as a complementary control method once the deer population has already been lowered.
Similarly, Hoelzer said sterilization would work well as a complementary method, but alone it would not reach the desired goals.
Resident Brunilda Perez was the only resident who spoke out criticizing Hoelzer's report Monday night. Perez said she thought Hoelzer left out important information regarding non lethal methods of deer control. She said she felt the report was not complete because sterilization methods were not presented.
Hoelzer told Town and Country-Manchester Patch in his full report he does addresses sterilization and contraception, inlcuding a drug GonaCon. Hoelzer, however, said he did not include it in Monday night's presentation because it is not effective nor has it been approved by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
"It makes no sense to try to even consider a drug like GonaCon at this point," Hoelzer said. "Maybe things will develop later on, and there will be something out there. Something may come in the next few years that revolutionizes wild life management. It's not there yet and GonaCon is not the answer."
Resident Mariette Palmer, who attended the meeting, told Town and Country and Manchester Patch she too was not pleased with the outcome of the report. Palmer, who has been an outspoken advocate for non-lethal deer control methods, said the majority of the people in Town and Country support non-lethal methods.
"How many times do we have to come up and say, 'We want nonlethal methods?’" Palmer asked. "We are an outstanding community. We all should set an example on how we treat our wildlife and how we deal with our population control, and we should do it with compassion and certainly invest in nonlethal methods. We can afford to do it."
Hoelzer, however, said he was pleased with the final outcome of the report.
"I try to take both praise and criticism with the same spirit,” Hoelzer said. “I am pleased that it was received well by the majority who were here. My intent was just to give them a fact-based report and let them come to their conclusions."
Hoelzer said now it is up to the board of aldermen to review the report and draft a plan that will address the deer issue.
"The work is not done yet," Hoelzer said. "This was just the initial presentation, and we will give them the full report by the end of the week. It will be on our website. That's when the real scrutiny and analysis will come."
Mayor Jon Dalton commended Hoelzer and said he did an outstanding job for a task that is not usually assigned to a member of the police force.
"He was tasked with it, and he exceeded our expectations, and I look forward working with him on this matter," Dalton said.
Hoelzer said he didn't expect the project either.
"They didn't teach this in the academy," he told Patch.
(The Deer Management Report can be viewed in the photo/pdf portion of this article.)
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