Cape Friends of Wildlife meeting focuses on ways to get city council's attention

Friday, February 17, 2012

Leaders of a group opposed to urban deer hunting and members of the Deer Management Committee urged people Thursday night to contact city government officials about the issue.

About 30 people attended the second meeting of the Cape Friends of Wildlife at the Public Library Thursday evening and learned how they could influence Cape Girardeau City Council members via letters and at Feb. 28 Deer Management Committee forum.

Leaders of the group provided names and phone numbers of city council members, as well as ward maps so people could find their respective council member. The information was handed out in an effort to let the council know the group's concerns about controlling the deer population in Cape Girardeau.

"If they get 20 to 30 letters, that's a mountain of protest," one attendee said.

While the inaugural meeting of the group, held Jan. 29, was used primarily as a platform for people to voice their concerns about potential urban deer hunting, Thursday's meeting focused on getting the council's attention and dissecting information received from the city at the last Deer Management Committee meeting.

At the most recent Deer Management Committee meeting, the city reported that it had 115 deer-related incidents in 2011. Jenny Stigers took a closer look at the data and found that several of the incidents were duplicates because more officers had been called to the scene. In all, Stigers said 41 deer-related incidents -- all of which involved dead deer -- had occurred in what she called "urban" areas.

Other incidents occurred on Interstate 55, where hunting would not be allowed. Twenty-four of the 115 instances were officers taking deer carcasses to the transfer station.

"The numbers have been misrepresented," Stigers said.

Two members of the Deer Management Committee were at the meeting.

Committee member Jim Whitnel, who attended the group's first meeting, offered advice for speakers at the upcoming forum. Speakers will be allotted three minutes to speak to the committee, Whitnel said.

"Make it short, make it sweet and make it short again," Whitnel said of how people should use their three minutes. "If you repeat the same thing, they'll cut you off quickly."

Whitnel added that he had gone on a ride-along Thursday with assistant police Capt. Roger Fields and that, while he had seen deer, he could not confirm whether the city is overpopulated with them.

The Department of Conservation has yet to give the committee a total of how many deer are in the city, Whitnel said.

Committee member Dru Reeves told people at the meeting that a deer hunt within Cape Girardeau city limits would have to abide by state guidelines and no city ordinance could change that.

"At a minimum, we have to follow the state regulations," he said, adding that the city could shorten the season or limit how many or what type of deer could be hunted.

When asked about having professionals hunting the deer instead of a controlled bow season, Reeves said he considers the professional hunts unethical.

"They'll bait a field for a week or two and go up in tree stands and hunt the deer in the field," Reeves said. "That's just not ethical."

Vivian Selby capped off the meeting by presenting a map of Cape Girardeau on which she had plotted churches, parks, schools and densely populated areas. Selby said she could not find a place on the map where hunting would be safe.

"Do you think a church wants you hunting near it?" she said. "No, I don't think so."

Reeves suggested Selby get on the agenda for the next city council meeting to present the map. Selby said after the meeting she planned on presenting her map to the council.

Cape Friends of Wildlife leader Stephen Stigers said he was pleased with the discussion and the dialogue at Thursday's meeting, although attendance may have been marred by a city council roundabout meeting that coincided with the group's gathering.

The forum will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Osage Centre.

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

711 N Clark St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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