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Town and Country Residents Upset Over New Deer Developments

From a disturbing voicemail to a change in deer numbers, Town and Country residents say they feel they're not getting all the facts. Some aldermen agree. Readers can listen to the voicemail in this article.

At Monday night's Town and Country Board of Aldermen meeting, residents spoke out once again about the sharpshooting of deer in the city of Town and Country. Many belong to the group Committee for Safe and Responsible Deer Management which consists of Town and Country residents who are in favor of sterilization of the deer or the combination of sterilization and sharpshooting. 

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White Buffalo began sharpshooting at the end of December and some residents held a protest the week the shooting began. Committee members cited safety concerns and the city's unwillingness to disclose information as the reasons for the protest. At that time, city officials said the fears were unwarranted.

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However, Monday night, more specific concerns were raised from a recent change in the number of bucks allowed to be shot and a disturbing voicemail.

Alderman Al Gerber chairs the city's Conservation Commission. Monday night his son Greg played a voicemail message for aldermen and the public. It was left by Town and Country resident SuzAnne Paez at 4:45 p.m. Monday. Greg Gerber said the message was left for his mother, Hera Gerber, who serves on the city's Conservation Commission.

Paez was upset after reportedly witnessing a deer being shot. Her message said she had just witnessed the shooting, that that deer was moving around and suffering as it was being dragged up a hill.

"They let it flop around for a while. They didn't kill it instant. These are no sharpshooters," Paez said in her voicemail. "If they were sharpshooters, they could have killed it instantly, but they did not. This is absolutely horrible."

(Listen to the actual voicemail in the PDF/Video portion of this article.)

"What is that? Is that White Buffalo? Are these poachers?" Town and Country resident Traci Cardinas asked aldermen and the mayor. Cardinas is a Committee for Safe and Responsible Deer Management member.

That call and other information the committee says it recently uncovered about White Buffalo had residents once again questioning safety and some calling for the termination of the city's contract with the company.

J. Miller, who is not a Town and Country resident, but said he was asked to represent some residents as a spokesperson, told aldermen he was concerned with the city's "lack of disclosure. lack of transparency, lack of getting bids on the $100,000 plus deer management project and the lack of data."

Miller also questioned the city's research of White Buffalo citing some questionable incidents in Ohio where he said deer were shot and then suffocated. Miller said two injunctions have been granted against White Buffalo in cities where similar contracts and methods have been in force. 

"Granted on the basis of public safety," Miller said. "So there's a lot of things about White Buffalo that make me uncomfortable." 

Miller requested the termination of the city's contract with White Buffalo.

"There really are no safety considerations or concerns that we have. There are opinions and there are the facts, and the facts are that this is a very safe program the board (of aldermen) passed," Town and Country Police Captain Gary Hoelzer tells Patch. Hoelzer is Town and Country's deer management coordinator. "We've culled 160 (deer) to date without incident. We have a very good record, so far."

However, a recent increase on the number of antlered deer allowed to be shot has residents and even some aldermen outraged.

Last week, based on the recommendation of White Buffalo, Cpt. Hoelzer sent a request to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to increase the number of antlered deer allowed to be shot from 45 to 75. That request was sent on Jan. 4 and approved by the MDC on Jan. 6. It was not brought before the aldermen before it was sent to the MDC (Both documents can be read in the PDF portion of this article).

"How did this happen?" Town and Country resident Pete Eggebrecht asked. "I would think that if the whole board voted on this, they would have to vote to change this."

"I had nothing to with the adjustment, that was done by the Missouri Department of Conservation and learned about it the same time as the alderman," Mayor Jon Dalton responded.

The total of number of deer allowed to be shot did not increase, it still remains at 300. The 75 antlered deer are included in the 300 deer total.

Alderman Steve Fons said he is outraged by the increase and he knew nothing about the decision.

"This is power run amuck," Fons tells Patch. "I was not informed that they made this unilateral decision to bump up from 45 to 75 bucks, which is wrong. Nobody on the board was informed. That changes the rules."

"It doesn't have to go the board because the board never addressed it in the ordinance. The city only addressed the total number of deer, not antlered deer," Hoelzer tells Patch. "It wasn't an issue to come before the board of aldermen because they never addressed it in the first place."

Hoelzer reiterated that the revised authorization still only allows 300 deer to be shot, but now that number includes allowing 75 of those to be antlered, up from 45. He said the city ordinance only refers to the total number of 300 deer.

"Bottom line is this is breaking the contract and breaking the trust. None of us other aldermen were informed. In a company, when you break the rules, usually those people are terminated. This is a clear ordinance we wrote," Fons said.

Hoelzer said it was a matter of White Buffalo recommending the adjustment due to the fact that sharpshooters focused on antlerless deer in previous years. Hoelzer said once the culling began, White Buffalo recommened to him that the city increase the number of antlered deer shot this year to be more effective.

"Antlered deer affect deer activity at bait sites. They are aggressive and keep the does away," Hoelzer explained. "Typically, in deer management, you target the does because they reproduce. The antlered deer are not allowing the does to come to the bait sites."

But residents said they feel they are not being given all the information and that city leaders are not listening to them.

"I think these people here tonight have spoken for the majority of Town and Country residents. Why we can't get you, the board, to speak for the residents, I don't know," resident Margaret Rankin said. "I say get rid of White Buffalo and get Town and Country going in the right direction."

At the end of the meeting, Alderman Jon Benigas addressed the sharpshooting issue by pointing out his love of animals to the audience. He said he "refuses to eat them."

"Those of you saying this is killing, choose to ignore that the vast majority of what you put in your mouth has been killed," Benigas stated.

He was overheard after the meeing telling a resident that he is a vegan.

Note: The city ordinance is public record. Regular updates on the deer management program and the culling of the deer can be found on the top right hand side of the city's website.

 

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Jeanne Martin January 10, 2012 at 11:45 PM
How hypocritical of Alderman Benigas! He told several of us after the meeting last night that he is a vegan for HIS health, not out of concern for the cruelty to or the killing of animals. Yet, he tries to claim that he is a vegan out of his love for animals. This seems incongruous to me.

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