CAPE GIRARDEAU — Cape Girardeau is considering joining other Missouri communities that allow bowhunting of deer within city limits.
Darin Pettit, an agent with the Missouri Department of Conservation, has met with Mayor Jay Knudtson and Police Chief Carl Kinnison to discuss the proposal. Both Knudtson and Kinnison emphasized that the city is just beginning to gather information about the proposal.
“I have no idea how it works and no idea what the dangers are,” Knudtson said. “But I think it’s worthy of consideration.”
Cape Girardeau County has an estimated 9,300 deer. The number living in the city limits is unknown, but last year in Cape Girardeau deer were involved in 30 of the 1,900 vehicular accidents in the city. That does not include accidents on private property.
Kinnison said the city decided against bowhunting a few years ago for safety concerns. But, he said, that should be weighed against the number of accidents and damage deer cause.
If it happened, Pettit said, any bowhunting season could be extremely limited. “Not everybody would start shooting deer in the city,” he said.
In 2004, the city of Columbia opened up four city-owned areas to bowhunters stalking deer. One hunting spot is a section of the Twin Lakes Recreation Area, a 64-acre park for walking, cycling, fishing and swimming. Private landowners in the city have been allowed to permit bowhunting on their property during the season since the early 1990s.
In 2005 in Missouri, four people were killed in accidents involving deer, 289 injury accidents involving deer were recorded and another 3,213 accidents involving deer resulted in property damage, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Missouri hunters kill more than 300,000 of the state’s 1.4 million deer each year. But urban areas pose a problem. “As cities continue to sprawl, hunting becomes a less effective means of limiting the numbers,” said Lonnie Hansen, a deer specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
But alternatives to hunting, among them trapping and relocation or euthanizing the deer and donating the meat to food banks, aren’t very effective, Hansen said.
Some people advocate the use of birth control. “The problem is delivering it to an adequate number of does to control the numbers,” Hansen said. “Nobody’s been able to do that yet.”
So the Department of Conservation works with communities around the state hoping they’ll allow urban hunting. St. Louis and Kansas City communities have bowhunting programs. Springfield still has a ban but is going to revisit the issue, Hansen said.
The recent ice storms have left deer hungry, said Ken West, protection regional supervisor for the Department of Conservation. “They will eat buds off trees, and they will break through the ice some. But they’re just hurting. That’s all there is to it,” he said.
Urban deer can divide a community, Hansen said. “One neighbor’s feeding deer and loves them, and the next-door neighbor sees them eating his garden and hates them,” he said.
Information from the Southeast Missourian, www.semissourian.com