COLUMBIA — Residents of central and northern Boone County may be seeing more deer this fall, according to authorities at the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The northern boundary of the Columbia/Jefferson City urban zone for deer hunting will be shifted south for the next hunting season. This news comes after residents of the area — the rural portion of Boone County just south of Missouri 124 — voiced concerns of low deer numbers there.
The area's removal from the zone excludes it from a four-day antlerless deer hunting season in mid-October, and officials hope that will increase the number of deer there.
"The urban zone is constructed for people to get as many deer as possible," said Jason Sumners, a resource scientist and deer biologist at the Conservation Department. "We made the zone smaller so folks north of Columbia aren't as affected by the increased deer harvest."
One reason for having urban hunting zones is to decrease the deer population to protect urban motorists from hitting the animals, Sumners said. Deer in roadways are not that much of a problem in the less-populated area that will now be excluded from the zone.
"Our goal in management was to decrease deer populations in this urban zone," said Sean Ernst, an agent for the Conservation Department. "I think we attained that goal."
Ernst said liberal hunting regulations and two major outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease contributed to the decreased deer numbers. The disease is caused by a virus that often kills deer, especially in times of drought.
Sumners said the boundary change was largely driven by residents. Hunters in the area complained to the Conservation Department of lower deer numbers by writing letters, attending regulatory committee meetings, making phone calls and sending e-mails, he said.
"People who've been hunting in that area all their lives see the changes better than we can," Ernst said. "Their input is very important to us."
The 2011 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information Booklet will include a detailed description of the boundary when the booklet is released on July 1. It will be available on the Conservation Department's website and where hunting permits are sold.