The Cape Girardeau City Council is being asked to make its choice on how best to thin the herd -- allowing urban deer hunting within the city limits or creating a program that calls for trapping and euthanizing the animals that are being blamed for increased car wrecks and tattered landscapes.
And if the support levels don't change before the council's pre-meeting study session at 5 p.m. today, it appears as though city staff will be told to draft an ordinance that would implement a regulated archery program this fall.
An item on the council's agenda calls for an update on urban deer management. City manager Scott Meyer said that will include reviewing the research city officials have done on both programs. A timeline of how quickly either program could be implemented will also be offered and a plan will be outlined on how a deer count will be conducted this fall.
Then, Meyer said, he's hoping to get some direction from council members on how to proceed.
"We'd like to get enough specificity so the next step would be to prepare an ordinance," Meyer said. "What they tell us won't tie them into those things, it just means that's what we'd put in the first draft of an ordinance."
Council procedures, which include voting at two separate meetings, means an ordinance could be in place within the next month or so, Meyer said. The public would be allowed to weigh in on the controversial issue that has sparked the creation of an opposition group, Cape Friends of Wildlife, that says a regulated hunt is inhumane.
But that looks to be the way the council is leaning. Five of the seven members say they support an archery program that, as proposed by Councilman John Voss, would require specialized training, education and written consent from property owners.
Voss said Friday he hopes the council is able to reach a consensus tonight.
"My personal hope is that we're able to quickly align or agree on one plan and begin to implement that," Voss said.
Voss is hopeful that a program is up and running by September, which coincides with the state's regular bow hunting season. July and August could be used to put together policies, procedures and a permitting process. That period would also provide adequate time for multiple training courses with the Missouri Department of Conservation as well as required education courses for the hunters to learn the specific requirements of the ordinance.
"Those things take time to be done properly, to be done with a high quality," Voss said. "I was hoping I would get staff to recognize that our backs are getting up against the wall pretty quickly if we're going to make that mid-September time frame."
The two council members who oppose urban deer hunting are Kathy Swan and Loretta Schneider. Schneider recently proposed an alternative to bow hunting with her idea of trapping the deer, euthanizing them and then donating the meat to local food banks. Scheider realizes the odds are stacked against her, but she said she's not wavering.
"I know that I am in the minority," she said. "But I'm staying with the way that I feel about it now."
Swan said they would like to see the results of a deer count, which is in the works for this fall, before making a decision. Without a count, she remains unconvinced that there is a problem, she said. She's concerned that a deer hunt may contribute to accidents, rather than detract from them, if deer injured by arrows run out into traffic. She has seen no research about accidents resulting from urban deer hunting programs in other communities where it is allowed.
"I am not ready to vote on a deer management program until we get the results of the survey either way," Swan said. "My first priority is the safety of our citizens and I want to ensure that any program we adopt is one that makes that a top priority, so a thorough research of ordinances in those communities would be in order."
Swan also favors conducting a poll to gauge whether citizens would want such a program. If the survey does not indicate a problem and the citizens don't want one, then the point is moot, she said. If the survey suggests a problem and residents want one, then the city should proceed, she said.
Still, a majority of the council members -- Voss, Mark Lanzotti, Mayor Harry Rediger, Trent Summers and Meg Davis Proffer -- disagree.
"I think there's been sufficient time to analyze the situation and provide opportunity to those who oppose the measure to voice their opinion," Summers said. " ... I still favor the use of an urban hunt."
401 Independence, Cape Girardeau, MO