After much discussion, the city council agreed to determine the cost of collecting data that will shed light on the deer population in the city. They hope to determine the scope of the urban deer population predicament. They decided the budget is not to exceed $3 thousand.
Councilman Phillip Swanson encouraged the council to consider this option to gather data before moving forward. There are varying opinions of whether the summer deer population in the city is a problem or not and there are strong opinions on what should be done if it is a problem. He said he wants to get a handle on what is actually happening so they can make an unemotional decision based off facts.
Mayor Brent Taylor said concerns about the urban deer population have been raised by residents producing crops on their property along with other residents. In the winter, deer come into the city from the mountains for food and some go back when summer comes. The deer posing the issue for some residents are the ones that stay in the city through the summer.
Opinions and concerns voiced by residents
Taylor said “They are coming out of the woods to eat on farms and orchards…The owners of residential orchards cannot put up 10ft fences to keep them out because it is a residential area that only allows 6 ft fences.” He is worried that agricultural land owners will be pressured to sell their land for development. “We would lose some really beautiful parts of the community.” Taylor said he wants to give them tools for support.
Sara Fawson said, “The deer were here first but their population wouldn’t be as big as it is without the farm land that we have produced and without our fruit trees and gardens.” She said these resources help deer populations in the seasons where they would have scarce food.
Carolee Barker said they have tried many things to protect their garden with very limited success. She also said she fears the increase of deer population will increase the cougar population.
Marcie Owens said there are deer that live on her, and her neighbors’, property part of the year and she loves watching and studying them. “The skunks are more of a problem than the deer.” Bret Hamblen said the herd in his field has decreased by about 15.
Doug Ollar said he had a daughter in Provo who got hit by a male deer in the vehicle she was driving. He said she could have been more seriously injured if the glass window it hit had broken. He said he is concerned with safety in North Ogden. “I think we have to do something to curtail the growth.” Chief of Police John Call said since July 1 of 2014 there have been 24 reported automobile accidents involving deer. He also said there are additional incidents that don’t get reported. Jean White said he has noticed the deer moving further in. “There are deer across the street from the church, Barker park, and in high travel areas.”
Potential courses of action
The council discussed three options to manage the urban deer herd. One, set traps and relocate the deer through the Division of Wildlife Resources. Two, make no action relative to deer. Three, remove the deer using lethal methods. One option is to hire professional hunters and the other option is to allow local hunters to purchase tags and harvest the animals. Dayna Stark said, “Our other home is in Garden City and there is a real deer problem there. Those deer live in the city.” She said they have implemented feeding programs to draw them out of the city and it has worked. Councilwoman Cheryl Stoker said she thinks it is important to get a solution to the people who are greatly impacted.
Set traps and relocate the animals
Councilman Jim Urry said the traps are like a large dog kennel. When they walk in, the door closes behind them. Andy Winn said he prefers the relocation option to the others. Taylor said “If we trap in the winter, which is the only time [the DWR] allows, they are just as likely to trap a deer that comes from the mountain and goes back as we are to get a deer that lives in the city.” Jeff Stark and several other residents said relocation programs don’t work since the shock of the move sometimes kills the animals. It costs $200 per animal to relocate it 150 to 250 miles away to other areas of the state.
In a facebook poll posted on the Mayor’s facebook page, 585 people out of 771 preferred to do nothing out of the three options. Bret Hamblen said, “How do we determine how many deer we have in the area?” Dave Meets and Kurt Fuller both said they prefer this option. Meets said he would rather deal with the inconveniences of broken fences, decimated shrubs, and deer scat in his yard than deal with bow hunters on his property. He said he is concerned about hunters shooting and maybe hitting or maybe missing the deer. “I would absolutely not give bowhunters permission to shoot deer on my property.” Fuller said he agreed with Meets since he owns property he believes is a place people would choose to lethally remove the deer. He also said he doesn’t believe the deer have done significant damage that would justify the cost of removing the deer. City Attorney John Call said private property is 100% out of the lethal program unless private property owners give strict permission along with the city council and chief of police.
City attorney John Call said the hunter program can be restricted by the city but if they choose this option they need to have one million dollars in insurance. Jean White said the limitations of the DWR urban deer control program are extremely restrictive. In all cases hunters are not to be within 600 ft from any structure. The antlers will go to DWR and the meat has to be used. “This is not a hunt program where people take trophies,” said White. He said they reduce the population by removing the older and younger deer. “I can attest to programs of training for firearms. It is extremely strict and bow hunting in city limits is even more strict.”
Taylor said, “Highland has a similar geography to North Ogden.” He said they started a lethal program in 2012, and since then there have been less deer killed on the road. “This option also saved on the local cost. A local archer did the majority of the hunting.”
Instead of selling tags to local hunters, another option is to hire professional hunters. City attorney John Call said most professional hunters shoot down into the ground from tree stands into bait stations to eliminate risk.