The Columbia City Council drafted an ordinance that would allow firearms hunting on all 20-acre or larger tracts of land, subject to certain safety restrictions. The council will also hear public comment before taking a vote on Monday night.
The proposed ordinance could have two major benefits: curbing the urban deer population and providing an incentive for large tracts of land to be annexed into the city.
The main incentive for Councilman John John is the control of the urban deer population.
“We’re in a catch-22,” John said. “We don’t want to start releasing mountain lions, but the population of deer has gotten to the point where true environmentalists know that the deer population is out of balance.”
Some Columbia residents, such as Susan Galloway, are concerned about the safety of using hunting to control the deer population.
“It is a huge safety issue,” Galloway said. “I’ve talked to hunters who say it is unsafe as well. Bullets can fly pretty far.”
Galloway said she knows little about hunting and is personally opposed to it. She said people need to learn to live in harmony with animals and suggested planting shrubs to keep deer out of yards, establishing reflective systems on highways to prevent deer crossings and making passageways for wildlife as ways to work with the deer population.
“Our first solution is to kill them, and I disagree with that,” Galloway said. “I think other things should be tried first, and I haven’t seen any attempts to do that.”
Councilman Jim Loveless said the approaches Galloway suggested do not address the heart of the issue. He said Galloway’s suggestions are geared more toward preventing car accidents and garden damage rather than culling the growth of the deer herd. He said other attempts to curb population growth, such as birth control and relocation, have largely proved impractical and ineffective.
“There is a challenge here we need to address before we get a crisis,” Loveless said.
Information on the Missouri Department of Conservation Web site said hunting prevents deer from destroying crops and causing accidents.
“If hunting mortality is eliminated and all other mortality and reproductive factors remain the same, a deer population increases rapidly, nearly quadrupling in size in just 10 years,” the Web site said.
Loveless has also been studying data of Missouri firearm accidents collected over the last 20 years, and he said it provides little ground for concern.
“Looking at the data they collected there is no substantiation for a person’s fear of standing around and getting hit by a straight bullet from a deer hunter,” Loveless said. “The odds are less than being struck by lightning.”
Loveless will bring the data to the council meeting Monday for those who have concerns about the ordinance.
Council members debate the reach of the ordinance
In its current form, the ordinance would apply to all 20-acre or larger tracts of land in the city. While some oppose the ordinance altogether, others, such as Councilman Brian Ash, prefer to limit firearms hunting to newly annexed tracts of land.
Ash supports instituting the ordinance because of the extra benefit of removing a hurdle that keeps large tracts from being annexed to the city.
“When this subject first came up it was that there were large tracts of land where people might want to annex, but didn’t want to lose rights for hunting and fireworks,” Ash said.
Ash added that he would prefer the ordinance be applied only to annexed tracts zoned A-1, or agricultural.
Although limiting hunting rights to newly annexed tracts may seem unfair, Ash said instituting the ordinance city-wide might discomfort people living near 20-acre tracts currently within the city limits.
“I’m worried that there are going to be people who’ve had a 20-acre tract of land next to them for years, and now all of a sudden there’s going to be someone there who’s hunting,” Ash said.
John said while the ordinance being instituted citywide may bother some, it may appease those who would like to hunt on the larger tracts within the city.
For Ash, it’s still better to start with a more restrictive ordinance.
“I’d rather start with baby steps and do it with recently annexed land before we go city-wide,” he said.
The council will debate the issue and is expected to vote at the regular Monday meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Daniel Boone City Building.