Council approves deer hunting for Cape

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Cape Girardeau City Manager Scott Meyer, left, mayor Harry Rediger, and councilwoman Loretta Schneider listen as councilman John Voss comments on the concerns voiced about urban deer hunting from some of the city's citizens Monday night, July 16, 2012 at City Hall. The council passed the urban deer hunting ordinance with a 4-3 vote. (Laura Simon)

Despite another round of impassioned pleas from opponents and less than unified support from within its own ranks, the Cape Girardeau City Council gave final approval Monday night to an ordinance that will allow urban deer hunting within the city limits starting this fall.

The council's reinstatement of previously discussed safety measures that involve the program's parcel size, age limitations and use of tree stands wasn't enough to sway opponents who vowed to begin collecting enough signatures to get what they have called an unsafe and inhumane law stricken from the books.

The council again voted 4-3 Monday to approve the ordinance, which is set to take effect this fall, along the same lines as its vote earlier this month during its initial approval. Council members John Voss, Mark Lanzotti, Meg Davis Proffer and Trent Summers voted in favor, and Mayor Harry Rediger, Loretta Schneider and Kathy Swan voted against.

Voss said he has heard from several residents who want to have a mechanism to fend off what he believes is a growing deer population that is contributing to motor vehicle accidents and ruined landscapes.

"As property owners, they are helpless at this point to try and take care of their property," Voss said. "My sincere intent is to offer all property owners a peaceable solution to handle this problem."

Amendments to the original ordinance, which the council first approved June 18, were suggested by Voss, Lanzotti and Summers. The ordinance as approved now ups the acreage requirement for hunting from one acre to three acres, a level that can be reached by contiguous property owners who join together. The requirement for an elevated position was also put back in, originally in a draft ordinance, but removed later for being too restrictive. The age limit of 16 was bumped back up to 18.

Those changes were offered by Voss. Summers made an amendment, also approved, that will trigger neighbor notification in the case of property owners putting their property together to create a hunting zone of three acres.

Lanzotti's amendment created exceptions that would be applied only to single property owners within the city who own more than 10 acres, which would largely be near the city's more rural boundaries. Those property owners would not have requirements for elevated hunting, nor would hunters have to be at least 18 years old, though they would have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

"I think you want to give fathers and sons or fathers and daughters the opportunity to hunt on family farms that have been brought into this city," Lanzotti said. "As far as tree stands, with kids that's less safe."

Rediger had discussed a five-acre requirement that would have to be owned by one individual. When that idea was shot down, he said he could not support the ordinance. He also said the amendments created a logistical nightmare.

"Personally, I think we're dissecting the rules too far," Rediger said. "There are different rules for different parts of the city. I think it would be a monster to try and enforce and it's too confusing for me -- and not only for staff, but for law enforcement and also individuals that are involved."

Last-ditch effort

The amendments and the final vote came after members of Cape Friends of Wildlife made a last-ditch effort to change the council's minds. The familiar faces who have appeared before the council for months did so again Monday night.

Opponent Jenny Stigers suggested the community was tired of an issue that, in the grand scheme of things, wasn't all that important. She said her voice mail has been full of messages from residents who are interested in an initiative petition that the organization intends to assemble to get the issue on the ballot.

"We're convinced we'll be successful," Stigers said.

Judy Pulley said the urban deer ordinance was a bad idea from the start. She said the members of the council who support a bow hunting season have had a "lackadaisical attitude of using weapons in the city" who have approached the issue in a "haphazard manner" from the beginning.

The meeting became contentious at one point. At least one resident suggested the deer hunting supporters at the council level must be seeing some financial benefit for implementing deer hunting.

That drew a stark rebuke from Voss, who never interrupted the speaker, but responded during the council discussion.

"I'm ashamed of you for implying, inferring and insinuating that there's financial gain or some underhanded motive on my part or some other council member," Voss said to the group. "We have been patient in tolerating your insults."

The ordinance is set to take effect 10 days following the Monday approval.


Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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