COLUMBIA — The annual deer hunt at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park has been canceled this year because of a reduced deer count.
In February, park staff in helicopters counted a total of 28 deer, said Jim Gast, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park superintendent. According to park policy, organized deer hunts can only occur if there are 25 deer per square mile.
Gast said the low count is not cause for alarm. He said ice and sleet around the time of the aerial surveys might have led to the dispersal of deer to open fields outside the park to forage. Deer might also have sheltered themselves under cedar trees out of the helicopter’s view, Gast said.
Another hypothesis Gast has is that the deer were not spooked by the helicopter and did not stir out of their hiding places as in past years.
This is the first time since 2004 that the park has canceled the hunt, according to state park records. Gast said deer hunts were organized in 2002 to reduce the burgeoning deer population that damaged park vegetation and were hit by cars on the highway. State park records indicate between 70 and 80 does or nonantlered deer are killed each year at these hunts. Gast said an average of 80 hunters usually participate in the hunt.