Cape deer committee holds first meeting

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
A truck passes by deer grazing in a field at dusk near the intersection of North Sprigg and Bertling Streets in Cape Girardeau on Monday, Oct. 4, 2011. (Kristin Eberts)

Cape Girardeau's newly formed urban deer committee made its first decision at its inaugural meeting Tuesday night.

And that decision was to educate themselves first.

The seven-member group charged with studying how to best manage the city's burgeoning deer population appears to be wasting no time. They scheduled their next meeting for Tuesday, with a plan of hearing from either the Missouri Department of Conservation or an animal control officer from the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

"We need to know what the problem is before we can make any sort of recommendation," member Mel Dockins said.

The group also took home a packet of information prepared by assistant police chief Roger Fields, who is serving as the staff liaison to the committee. The folder included statistics on the number of deer-related calls in the city, as well as copies of ordinances from other communities.

The meeting also shed light on where each member stands at the outset of what looks to be a nearly yearlong process that could culminate with allowing bow hunting within the city limits.

The committee is made up of five men and two women, including a retired contractor, a veterinarian, an insurance salesman and a university employee.

As the meeting began, each member shared their initial thoughts about allowing hunting in the city's limits to thin the herd of deer that cause motor-vehicle accidents and destroy some landscapes.

For example, Bard Womack, an insurance agent, told the group he has been an avid bow hunter for more than two decades and has hunted in St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., where urban deer hunting laws are already in place.

"We don't come running up in camouflage slinging arrows leaving dead deer everywhere," Womack said. "I don't want people thinking that. It just doesn't work that way."

Jarett Seiler, a veterinarian, who lives just north of Jackson, said he began bow hunting a couple of years ago. Seiler said he hopes to bring an understanding of animals to the committee.

The group is also made up of people of varying opinions about whether urban deer hunting should be allowed or if that's even the best way to manage the population.

"I am not opposed to this whatsoever," said member Dru Reeves, a Cape Girardeau business owner. "But I will listen to people who have problems with it. I have an open mind."

Member Judy Graetz has already been vocal about her support of allowing urban deer hunting. She's the one who lobbied for the program a few years ago, although that effort gained no traction with council members then.

Other members of the committee, however, expressed lingering reservations, including members Jim Whitnel and Beverly Weakley. Weakley said she didn't like the thought of deer being killed in town.

"This is their sanctuary," Weakley said. "But I know there's a problem and that's why I'm here."

Dockins said he was "torn" about allowing such a program in the city limits, but he, too, said he's trying maintain objectivity.

"Something needs to be done, but what it is, I don't know," Dockins said.

City manager Scott Meyer spoke to the group before the meeting got underway. He said it's not the group's mission to come up with a point-by-point program and that would fall to city staff before the council voted on any such program.

He's asking the committee to take time to consider what a good program would look like to manage the deer population.

Meyer also expects the committee to host at least one public hearing to gather community input. Fields suggested that the group educate themselves first and that any public hearing may not happen until April or May.

When the committee has finished its work, it is expected its members will make a formal recommendation to the Cape Girardeau City Council.

"I think it went pretty well," Dockins said after the meeting. "We have our work cut out for us, but I don't think anybody on the committee has their own agenda. We're just trying to figure out what's best."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

401 Independence, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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