CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — For almost 20 years, West Virginia has allowed state-sanctioned urban whitetail hunts to lower deer populations and to reduce damage to residents’ property caused by deer.

Division of Natural Resources wildlife chief Paul Johansen said the hunts have succeeded at thinning local whitetail populations.

“I believe they’ve been an unqualified success,” Johansen said. “Once the people of a town or a homeowner association decide to allow a hunt, they usually allow them again and again and again. Our data indicate that the hunts are very successful at removing deer, and usually the hunts take place without any problems.”

State-sanctioned urban archery hunts in municipalities began in 1996. Eleven municipalities now have urban hunting seasons.

The DNR began sanctioning urban hunts after the state Natural Resources Commission approved guidelines for season dates and bag limits. In 2001, the state extended the hunts to homeowner associations.

Johansen said urban hunts offer several incentives to increase their popularity among hunters.

“One big carrot is that urban seasons open up 14 days before the regular archery season,” Johansen said. “There is a seven-deer bag limit, and the deer that hunters kill during urban seasons don’t count against their seasonal bag limits.”

This year’s urban hunts will differ from previous years’. Hunters will be allowed to use crossbows and all urban kills must be checked in using the DNR’s new electronic game-checking system.

“What we have done, as an agency, is to set parameters that allow municipalities the flexibility they need to put in hunts that work for them and that their citizens accept,” Johansen said. “The hunts don’t necessarily solve all the deer problems these cities and towns have, but they go a long way toward taking care of them.”

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.