Reduction of city’s deer population hot topic at council work session

HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt

A plan to reduce the number of deer wandering the streets of Evanston was brought before the city council at their work session on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Local residents Josh and Susan Anderson and Peggy Ducharme, along with Wyoming Fish & Game biologist Jeff Short and warden Heather Sterling, addressed the council with concerns about too many deer within city limits.

Susan Anderson was the first to speak to the council, “We are worried about the large number of deer in the city.  They cause a risk of traffic accidents, are a danger to pets, cause property damage and bring the potential danger of predators seeking them out within the city. We are asking the city to pass an ordinance for controlling the local deer population.”

The council was given a copy of the city of Cody’s deer management plan showing they had approved a lethal reduction program to address the urban deer population. Cody had set up a procedure in cooperation with Wyoming Fish and Game Department to manage the deer population numbers. Selected members of the Cody Police Department were trained to shoot deer after bait had been used to draw them to locations where it would be safe to shoot them. After testing the deer for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the deer proven safe would be donated to local residents and/or the food bank.

“The killing of the deer would be done at night with the use of silencers and the meat donated to the food bank,” game warden Sterling said.

Ducharme addressed the council, “I live along the river and I love the wildlife, but the deer jump my fence and threaten my dog. I have to have him on a leash when I walk him in my own yard. We need to have a plan to control the over-population of deer in the city.  We could give the meat to the local food bank, which is in dire need of meat.  I hope the community will support this plan.”

The Wyoming Fish & Game employees provided the council with a document regarding the feeding of deer which is prohibited by Fish & Game.

Biologist Short said, “Actually, the deer population in Evanston is pretty insignificant but that changes with the weather. Feeding the deer by some people causes issues for all concerned. We have major issues with people feeding the deer and luring them into town.  Deer have complicated digestive systems and when they eat things that are not part of their natural diet, it can actually make them sick and even lead to death.  As far as a control plan, we are neutral; my job is to manage the deer population as a sustainable resource for hunting and the numbers of deer in town do not affect my numbers. It is not a population issue, it is a social issue and we will support whatever the city decides to do.”

Short explained that six cities in Wyoming have a cooperative agreement with Fish & Game similar to the plan Cody has.  Human safety is a concern, he said, as there are roads and traffic everywhere.  Even though predators are not that close to the city, Short explained, they can still be a concern as the increase in prey increases the potential danger.  He added that they have not seen evidence of CWD in the deer around Evanston but it has shown up in Green River and Pinedale and as close as Vernal, Utah.

Sterling added that she gets a lot of calls regarding deer from Evanston residents. Short added that even though Fish & Game does get calls on sightings of predators such as mountain lions and bears, they don’t publicize them but continue to monitor them.

Josh Anderson suggested the council do a census of local residents to see if they would support a plan to reduce the number of deer within the city.

“Several years ago, we sent a flyer out with water bills to survey residents about the possibility of reducing the number of deer within the city,” Mayor Kent Williams said. “The response was overwhelmingly against killing any of the deer.  The community did not support a reduction plan.”

Local resident Gregg Attarian addressed the council in opposition to any plan to kill the deer.

“I think the deer population enhances the town,” Attarian said and admitted he feeds the deer near his home. “The speed limit within the city is 20 miles per hour and if people are doing the speed limit there shouldn’t be any reason they hit a deer. The number of deer in town are small, so is there really a problem?  Has any child been hurt by a deer? Have we done a census on how many deer there actually are in town? If you outlaw deer in town, are you going to outlaw chickens and rabbits, too, because of potential predators?”

The discussion continued back and forth among council members and the public in attendance. Arguments for and against feeding of deer in town and the potential risks of too many deer in town continued for some time.

Mayor Williams thanked everyone for their comments and said the council would research and investigate the proposal further.  A proposed ordinance would have to be publicly announced and open to further comments from the public.

The only other item on the work session agenda was brought to the council by Community Development Director Rocco O’Neill which was a maintenance agreement with WYDOT for black powder coat on the Exit 5 offramp signal and current and future improvements on the Harrison and Main signal and the 6th Street overpass enhancement project. 

“WYDOT will eventually transition all the poles to black powder coat and want the written approval of the city,” O’Neill said.

Attorney Boal advised the council to put a motion to write a letter with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and WYDOT and put it on the next regular meeting’s agenda for a vote.

The council agreed and the work session was brought to a close.

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