Feed the deer, face a fine. The Cape Girardeau City Council gave final approval to an ordinance Monday night that bans feeding whitetail deer within the city limits, but one member called it but a "first step" toward reining in the growing herd.
The bill takes effect in 10 days, and violators face a maximum punishment up to $500 and no more than 90 days in jail. The law was passed unanimously on a 5-0 vote, with council members Mark Lanzotti and Kathy Swan not in attendance.
One resident spoke in opposition to the law, which prohibits placing or leaving any fruit, grain, hay or vegetable with the intent of attracting whitetail deer on public or private property.
The law does not apply on agriculturally zoned land, which addresses a concern brought up by Lanzotti at the April 16 meeting. Another section that was amended removed minerals, salts and certain deer-attracting scents from the ban.
One resident, Dave Juden, spoke out against the ban, urging the council to find another way.
"I was hoping you'd find an option other than having our police force out hunting for deer feeders instead of chasing serious crime," Juden said. "A lot of people enjoy the deer."
Mayor Harry Rediger told Juden that police will be investigating based on complaints, which is similar to other anti-nuisance laws. Juden also recommended putting up more signage, which Rediger said the city staff was looking into.
Councilman John Voss, who brought up the issue of implementing an urban deer hunt last year, said he was comfortable with the ordinance as amended.
"The additions that Councilman Lanzotti brought forward helped clarify -- good people trying to do the right thing may have unintended consequences and perceived as trying to feed deer when that's not what they're trying to do," Voss said.
Lanzotti had argued that the first draft of the ordinance could have interfered with farming operations, routine wildlife activities and could cause problems for a deer archery hunt that the council will likely consider within the next two meetings. Residents in newly annexed areas of largely rural property could "run afoul," Lanzotti said, of the ban as it was proposed.
But Voss said this is just the first step to controlling the deer population in the city.
"I think we said before we're trying to avoid something catastrophic happening, either a wasting of the herd that is in the community from the passing along of a ... disease or a fatality to a human because of an accident," Voss said.
Voss said the city is still interested in having an official count of the population later this year, but at the same time recognizes that time is of the essence.
"The longer we wait, the population is going to continue to multiply and grow and the problem is going to get worse and not better," Voss said.
City staff members are expected to present options, likely to include Councilwoman Loretta Schneider's idea of trapping deer instead of allowing a hunt.
Voss still supports the urban deer hunt, he said.
"I can only speak for myself and I think that it would be very difficult to implement a trap program," Voss said. "I think we'd be better suited, certainly from a financial standpoint, to move and reapply what so many communities -- not only in the state of Missouri but across the nation -- have implemented, which is basically a managed archery hunt program inside the city limits."
401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO