The Town and Country Board of Aldermen passed the city's new deer management plan Monday night. It includes sharpshooting as the only method of reducing the deer population, which will begin in December.
The plan was created by Captain Gary Hoelzer, who was tasked by the city to research and create the plan, and City Attorney Steve Garrett.
The city's plan would reduce the current population of deer from 660 to 300, or 30 per square mile. It costs approximately $165,000 over two years and uses sharpshooting by White Buffalo as the only means of reducing the deer population. This winter, 300 deer would be shot, beginning in December. Another 50 deer are expected to shot next winter to maintain the population of 300. Monday night's vote was only for this fiscal year's portion of the plan. It appropriated $133,000 of the city's budget for this winter's deer management.
The vote came after much public comment and a lengthy discussion among aldermen about the staff's recommended sharpshooting plan and proposed amendments to that plan by Alderman Al Gerber, who chairs the city's Conservation Commission. Gerber wanted sterilization included in the new plan, along with sharpshooting.
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Prior to the vote, Alderman Phil Behnen cited safety and cost as the two reasons he's supporting the staff plan which he urged his fellow aldermen to vote for Monday night. That plan is included in the PDF portion of this article.
"As chairman of the finance commission, I feel fiscally responsible for the taxpayers money and I think it's in our best interest to spend as little as possible," Behnen said, but pointed out numerous safety issues for supporting the sharpshooting plan. "We want to make our streets in Town and Country safer for residents. People are fed up and they want us to do something about it and this plan address our issue. I think it's just a matter of time. If we want to prevent serious injury, we have to bring this number down."
Safety is a sentiment shared by all aldermen, and the city's mayor.
"I don't care about hostas, I care about vehicle collisions," Mayor Jon Dalton said. "I care about safety."
"We've had 160 automobile versus deer incidents in the last two years and that is unacceptable," said Alderman Fred Meyland Smith, who chairs the city's deer task force.
"Sharpshooting is really the only plan where you can achieve your goal immediately," Behnen said. "I think if we are realistic about this, sharpshooting is the only way we are going to get our deer population down quickly."
However, the mayor and some aldermen were open to listening to non-lethal options.
"I agree with Aldermen Behnen, that this is a public health and safety issue. It's intolerable and something needs to be done about it, but if we can get there with a non-lethal approach, I am willing to listen," Dalton said Monday night and asked Gerber to explain his recommendations.
Gerber recommended amendments to the staff plan, including adding sterilization to the existing bill (although it would still include some sharpshooting). He proposed sterilizing 50 deer this November then 15 each following November. He also wanted to reduce the number of deer killed this winter to only 200, which would take the total city deer population down to 400.
"I think we should lower that number to 400 and see what happens to traffic. Last time we lowered the number accidents went down," Gerber said.
Alderman Steve Fons voted for both amendments and Alderwoman Nancy Avioli voted to reduce the deer population to only 400, but neither amendment was passed by the board.
Aldermen Steve Fons also tried to amend the city's proposed plan to change sharpshooting from five to 10 contiguous acres and to only allow deer to be shot from a tree stand 15 to 20 feet high with shots fired down at the ground only. Those changes did not pass.
"My concern is public safety," Fons said.
Contrary to previous meetings, many residents came out and spoke in support of the staff's plan of sharpshooting.
"I've yet to find any of my neighbors who were in favor of sterilization," said Doug Rushing who lives in Thornhill Estates.
"This morning I woke up to find a dead deer in my yard, hit by a passing car. Everyday I have to be careful. The deer over-population is an issue that affects me everyday," said Matt Pipoly who lives off Weidman Road. He said his family has even allowed White Buffalo to sharpshoot on his land in the past. "I feel that it's the best solution that's been presented. it's cost effective."
Pipoly's grandmother also spoke at the meeting saying she does not support paying to sterilize the deer because the sterilized deer will likely be hit by a car.
However, there were still strong supporters of Gerber's plan.
"I think there's been a lot of emotional involvement here. To me it comes down to cost effectiveness. I think if you look at Alderman Gerbers plan, it is the most cost effective," said Pete Ikerbrake who lives off Clayton Road. "We are in favor of the combination of doing things. I think coming forth with a balanced approach here would be the best for the city."
"I don' like the fact that we would be sharpshooting in neighborhoods," said Former Town and Country Alderwoman Barbara Ann Hughes. "There are things in this ordinance that concern me deeply."
However, board members voted to support the plan that uses sharpshooting as the only method of deer control.
"You had a chance really to bring this community together. You're all talking about safety and you voted to keep it (sharpshooting) at 5 acres and to shoot from a little, bitty stand. Has anyone up there ever shot a high powered rifle?" Dennis Fitzgerald asked the board after the vote. "A bullet can go pretty far. Some of the things you did tonight, are not safe."
Town and Country resident Tracey Cardenas supports sterilization. She put up signs throughout the city promoting the idea. Monday she told the board she knocked on 100 homes in Town and Country and all but four supported sterilization.
"I'm disappointed and I think Town and Country missed an opportunity to be innovative and leaders. Instead they are going back to the method they've used in the past which is killing. That is why we are still debating this, because killing isn't the answer,"Cardenas tells Patch. "This started ten years ago. What does that tell you? It doesn't work. Five, ten years from now, they'll still be debating the issue."
Although most of Gerber's proposed amendments did not pass Monday night, he is still trying to get an amended version of the ordinance passed. His amended version had its first reading Monday night and could be voted on at the next board of aldermen meeting. Gerber tells Patch he is not optimistic since the amendments in his bill were already presented to the board voted down Monday night.
"I'm very disappointed. It didn't seem that we had any movement from what people said in the past," Gerber told Patch after the vote. "No reaction to the outpouring of people. They're going to have to listen to the people a little more."
One amendment that Gerber proposed to the city's plan that did pass Monday night was to specify in the ordinance how the $133,000 for he plan would be spent. Following is the breakdown.
- $100,000 for White Buffalo services
- $27,000 for processing of meat
- $4000 for two distance sampling surveys (deer population surveys)
- $2,000 for bait (corn)
See agenda and supporting documents above for additional details.
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