Mayor Harry Rediger is having second thoughts.
As the Cape Girardeau City Council continues to try to fine-tune a proposal that would allow urban deer hunting in the city limits, Rediger said Monday night that he is not as certain about the plan as he was. Once a firm supporter, Rediger said he's now unsure how he will vote when a final ordinance is complete.
The council spent more than an hour during its study session debating a sample ordinance -- which was not voted on -- that lays out restrictions, requirements and oversight.
"When I really started looking at the amount of limitations in the ordinance -- it seems like it's just so cumbersome," Rediger said. "We have so many things going on in our city right now, I don't want to detract from those to pay too much attention to this."
Rediger said he worried that administering the archery hunt program could take too much time from city staff. He also wasn't comfortable with the sample ordinance's allowance of hunters on private property as small as one acre. City staff was directed to prepare an ordinance to be voted on June 18.
Before Rediger's doubts, the proposal was a lock with five supporters and two opponents. Now, if Rediger changes his mind, the final tally will be a split vote and far from overwhelming council support.
Still, a majority of the council still talked as if they support the program at least in principle, although there were some minor disagreements over the sample ordinance's particulars. The two opponents, councilwomen Loretta Schneider and Kathy Swan, also suggested that the emphasis has shifted to hunting as a sports activity rather than controlling the deer population.
Not everyone agreed.
"The only reasonable way of controlling the deer population short of spending a fortune on it is to allow recreational hunting," Councilman Mark Lanzotti said. "Whether recreational hunting is what you're doing or whether or not you're managing deer, it brings you to the same place."
The council spent most of the hour combing over the sample ordinance crafted by assistant police chief Roger Fields. Even the supporters grappled with some of the provisions, with calls from Lanzotti to remove requirements for insurance and written notices to be provided to contiguous land owners, items he felt may cause hunters to not to want to participate.
Rediger also voiced his concern that he thought one acre was too small, suggesting that the final draft call for a requirement of three or five acres, although agreeing property owners could join together to get to those figures. Several other supporters of allowing bowhunting within the city limits also said they did not agree that hunters should be forced to donate their harvest to Share the Harvest, an organization that donates meat to area food pantries.
The city police department would be required to monitor how many deer were captured, and the city manager's office would likely oversee the issuance of hunting permits under the sample ordinance. Hunters would be required to register with the city and be given information about the final ordinance's requirements. But the Missouri Department of Conservation would oversee the hunter safety course. The council also talked about lowering the age requirement to 16, as long as someone over the age of 18 was with them.
Still, the two opponents were outspoken saying they would not support an urban deer hunt, especially before a deer count is conducted. Such a count can't take place until this fall.
Swan noted the sample ordinance did not address other issues that have been talked about, such as an increase in deer crossing signs or a relaxation of the city's fencing ordinances to permit residents to erect fences taller than current laws allow.
"I have serious concerns about good public policy on the way this is proceeding," Swan said.
Supporters have said allowing an urban deer hunt is the most effective way to curb growing deer numbers that are being blamed for motor vehicle collisions and ruined landscapes.
401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO