Deer hunting opponents considering initiative petition

Monday, June 4, 2012

As the Cape Girardeau City Council moves ahead with plans to implement an urban deer hunting program, the leader of the group that opposes it says he's done trying to reason with them.

He's considering taking his case to voters.

"I'm thinking if they are really hard headed enough to push this through, that's probably going to have to be our next step," said Stephen Stigers, who leads Cape Friends of Wildlife. "I'm afraid I've reached the point of diminishing returns addressing those five council members. They do not seem to be able to understand the science behind our position or to understand the morality of it."

The council is looking at a sample ordinance at its 5 p.m. study session today that lays out regulations, requirements and penalties -- data that was culled from other cities that allow archery hunts in their communities. The plan calls for asking the council for more input today and then for an ordinance to be drafted that would be voted on at its next June meeting.

With five council members in support of hunting -- John Voss, Mark Lanzotti, Mayor Harry Rediger, Trent Summers and Meg Davis Proffer -- Stigers says it's a foregone conclusion that the ordinance will pass. Only Councilwomen Kathy Swan and Loretta Schneider outright oppose it.

Stigers said he believes the community overall is strongly opposed to allowing hunting. He pointed to a citywide survey where more people said they didn't want to allow a hunt than did. So if the council moves forward, it will be in direct defiance of the public's wishes and he would want them to be able to vote.

If his group collects about 2,400 signatures from Cape Girardeau residents, the matter would have to be put on the ballot. The process is identical to the one used by a group last year who wanted to ban smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars.

Voss, who brought up the issue of deer hunting last year to help thin what he sees as a growing herd, said Saturday he had no problem with the group doing that.

"That's any citizen's prerogative," Voss said. "If they feel strongly about any particular initiative, I applaud their effort in participating in their local government. I wish more people would participate."

As it is, the council will look at the sample ordinance tonight. The sample ordinance -- which will not be voted on -- says the dates of a hunting season would be defined by the Department of Conservation. This year, those dates are Sept. 15 to Nov 9 and from Nov. 21 to Jan. 15. The sample ordinance would make bow hunting illegal without having gotten permission from the property owner first. Contiguous neighbors would have to be notified in writing by the property owner and documentation of receipt of the notification of the date and time period of the hunt.

Hunters who bag a deer would have to report his name, sex of the deer and the location of the harvest within two business days to the Cape Girardeau Police Department. Arrows must be marked with a hunter's Missouri Department of Conservation identification number. Hunters also would be required to successfully complete a hunter safety course though the conservation department.

All hunting would have to be conducted from an elevated position that is at least 10 feet in height and faces the interior of the property. Hunters or the property owner would also have to get a certificate of insurance or an indemnity bond of at least $2,000 per occurrence. No hunting would be allowed on tracks of land under one acre in area, though adjacent property owners would be allowed to combine their parcels to create a hunting area.

Those are just some of the requirements. Violations would be punishable by a fine that ranges from $100 to $1,000 or jail time up to 90 days.

Council members who support the hunt called the sample ordinance a good first step. But Lanzotti does not favor the insurance requirement or giving contiguous property owners written notice. Such regulations could have a "chilling effect" on participation, Lanzotti said.

"I think it has levels of micromanagement," Lanzotti said. " ... There needs to be some fine-tooth combing because there's some inconsistencies in it. But as a first step I'm overall supportive of moving forward with it and continuing to refine it to fit our needs."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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