Hunters concerned about losing their right to use land annexed into Columbia got a break Monday night.
The Columbia City Council passed an ordinance at its meeting that will permit hunting on 20-acre tracts of privately owned, newly annexed land.
The ordinance was proposed as a way to control deer populations in the city. The original draft of the ordinance would have allowed hunting on all 20-acre tracts within the city limits, subject to safety restrictions, but it was amended to include only newly annexed land.
“It should be looked upon as an experiment,” said Councilman Jim Loveless.
Council members decided to limit hunting to newly annexed land to allow hunting to remain where it’s already permitted. Mayor Darwin Hindman suggested the amended ordinance could increase public safety in these areas by placing restrictions on firearms use where none currently exist.
One factor in amending the original form of the ordinance was concern over public safety. Some residents who spoke during a public comment period at the meeting opposed the ordinance altogether. Others, like Columbia resident Larry Schuster, suggested amendments, such as limiting the use of certain firearms while hunting.
Columbia resident Alyssa Chen offered her concerns about depending on hunting to control the deer population. She suggested using alternative methods like reflector systems on highways, signs, lights and fencing, as safer alternatives to hunting.
Loveless, a wildlife land manager for the Missouri Department of Conservation for 30 years, presented data from the department to answer concerns over public safety. According to the data, random down-range accidents constitute less than five percent of hunting accidents.
The data also showed that although the number of firearm permits sold increased by more than 50 percent between 1987 and 2003, hunting accidents decreased by a third during that same period. Loveless said that most hunting accidents tend to be self-inflicted or happen with a hunting companion.
The ordinance also restricted the hunting on such land to the use of shotguns, BB guns and primitive firearms.