Deer group exploring 'safer' alternatives to urban hunting

Thursday, September 20, 2012
A car travels north on Sprigg St. as four does graze in the field near the intersection of Sprigg and Bertling streets Friday, January 20, 2012 in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stigers' comments in the second paragraph have been corrected.

As a vote by the city council whether to repeal an ordinance that would allow bow hunting in the city limits of Cape Girardeau nears, its opponents haven't stopped brainstorming "safer" ways to control an urban population.

Sterilization, lowering speed limits, creating and using wildlife corridors and educating residents about how to fill their gardens and yards with deer-resistant plantings are all ideas the group Keep Cape Safe believes could help reduce interaction between humans and deer, said its leader, Stephen Stigers.

"I want folks to know we are exploring those alternatives," he said. "We are not digging in our heels and just saying ‘no' to population management. What we are trying to find out is the best way to go about this whole thing in the safest way possible, and hunting isn't it."

Cape Girardeau voters may get to decide that for themselves if the city council decides not to repeal the ordinance. A vote on the repeal is scheduled for the Oct. 1 meeting, prompted by a referendum petition that was certified Sept. 7 and suspended the ordinance the council narrowly passed in July after months of public debate on the issue of deer management in city limits. Keep Cape Safe gathered plenty of signatures in support of a referendum, meaning the council has 30 days from the certification date to repeal the ordinance or the issue will be placed before voters in a future election.

Stigers believes that what the number of signatures on the petitions -- the group collected more than 4,000 -- means is that there is plenty of opposition to urban deer hunting. Others, like Dru Reeves, who served on the community committee that recommended an ordinance to allow hunting, say that number only indicates the interest in the issue and that the group didn't adequately represent their opposition to people signing the petition when gathering signatures. Reeves also disagrees that the alternatives to hunting the group has brought up will actually help with the overpopulation of deer he said exists in the city.

Stigers has said the group wants to commission a count of deer in the city separate from a count that will be conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation this fall because the group does not trust the methods the department will use. The department plans to conduct a drive-by count this fall by randomly selecting routes throughout areas of the city and use data collected to create density estimates. The results of the department's count could be used by the city to revisit an urban hunting ordinance sometime next year if the council repeals the current ordinance or if the issue goes before voters in an election and fails.

Dee Dee Dockins, a wildlife skills specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said a count is just one indicator that should be used when assessing whether deer are causing a problem in an urban area. The number of traffic accidents involving deer, as well as property damage reports and the health of deer are other considerations when determining whether an area's population has surpassed its "carrying capacity" of animals, she said.

The council will consider the ordinance as an "emergency ordinance," city officials have said.

Stigers is concerned about the chances of repeal since the council did not hold two regular meetings in September, meaning five votes, which is one more than would normally be needed, must be cast in favor of repeal.

The council did not meet Sept. 17 due to attendance at an annual meeting of the Missouri Municipal League.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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