By TRAVIS PEARSON | The Sheridan Press
SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) — Deer looking to put down roots in Sheridan find everything they need within city limits: abundant forage, lack of natural predators and plenty of space to settle down and start a family.
But the animals don’t always make the best neighbors. They damage trees and shrubs; gorge on gardens; act aggressively toward pets and residents; hang out in the streets, at times causing vehicle accidents; and even bring in other undesirable neighbors, like mountain lions and deer ticks.
To reduce these human-deer conflicts, the Sheridan Police Department again plans hunting and removal programs this year, according to Lt. Travis Koltiska.
SPD began an initiative in 2007 by partnering with local archery hunters, allowing them to legally bow hunt for deer in city limits after registering with the police department.
The archery program made some difference, but ultimately deer numbers continued to increase. SPD decided in 2011 to apply for a Chapter 56 permit through the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The permit “authorizes officers of the department to utilize lethal means to remove urban deer,” Koltiska told The Sheridan Press.
Before implementing this program, the City Council established a no-feeding ordinance, which includes all wild animals except songbirds. SPD also conducted deer surveys.
After surveying, the program is rather simple. The department has specific officers trained in hunting with a rifle. These individuals shoot deer in low-density population areas, such as the fringes of the city, where a backstop is in place. Koltiska said safety is a top priority.
“We haven’t had any, knock on wood, mishaps involving that program,” he added. “And we’re going to do everything we can to prevent that.”
The permit has yielded tangible results. SPD has counted fewer vehicle-deer collisions in recent years. Property damage has seemed to decrease as well.
“We had some initial impact that we could see,” Koltiska said. “We harvested 100 deer in 2012, close to 100 in 2013, and then we backed off last year, because our goal is not to remove every deer in the city limits. Our goal is to reduce the conflicts that occur”
The department harvested 40 deer in 2014. SPD will conduct another survey this fall and, depending on the results, could take up to 100 deer in 2015.
The animals will not go to waste. In the program’s first couple years, the city paid to process the meat and then distributed it to needy families through local nonprofits, food banks and churches. Now the city donates the carcasses to individuals who process the meat themselves, which cuts down on fees for taxpayers.
SPD representatives understand some people do not like the idea of hunting in city limits, but Koltiska said the “overwhelming majority” support the program.
“They understand the reasons that we are doing this,” he said. “I love seeing the deer in town, and I know a lot of people like that. But they understand what happens when there are too many.”
Aside from damage to fences or flattened gardens, deer often become aggressive, particularly during the rut. And where prey roam, predators are bound to follow. SPD has had to shoot and kill three mountain lions in Sheridan the last four to five years, Koltiska estimated.
Information from: The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, http://www.thesheridanpress.com/