Deer population survey underway

Monday, December 24, 2012

A survey underway to determine the approximate population of whitetail deer within Cape Girardeau could affect the outcome of an April special election.

The survey, which was requested by the Cape Girardeau City Council, is being conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Cape Girardeau Police Department. The Biology Department at Southeast Missouri State University will assist by helping analyze data collected by conservation department employees.

Results should be available sometime in March, according to Matt Bowyer, a conservation department wildlife management biologist. Conservation department employees are using a spotlight on several night outings through the end of February to conduct the survey, which uses a range finder to determine the distance between count-takers and a deer. Data are run through a program that provides a density estimate for a particular area, which has been randomly selected, according to the conservation department.

The council requested the survey to help determine whether to allow bowhunting within the city limits. An ordinance passed by the council in July that would allow urban hunting was suspended in September and will go before voters in April. The council did not vote to repeal the ordinance after a group gathered enough petition signatures from registered voters to create the city's first-ever referendum.

Mayor Harry Rediger said the result of the deer count won't alter the decision that has already been made to place the issue on the ballot. The results of the survey, however, will be presented to the public.

"There won't be any action there, but it will give a picture to the citizens ahead of the vote just what the potential problem may be," he said.

So far, no committees for or against the ballot question have formed, according to Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark Summers, who expects to receive notice if one does form.

Opponents of urban hunting don't plan to stay quiet on the issue.

Stephen Stigers, who leads the anti deer-hunting group Keep Cape Safe, which gathered the signatures to create the referendum, said the group plans to begin meeting again after the first of the year to plan strategies for delivering their message to voters.

Stigers said he is concerned about the timing of the survey and how it may affect the outcome of the vote.

"I think it's very suspect on a number of different levels," he said. "The time to have gotten a survey was before they passed a deer-hunting ordinance, not now, leading up to an election. It certainly looks like it could be used to influence the vote of our citizens."

A citizen committee that made a recommendation to the council for the ordinance did not have a deer population estimate available to them, but did review several years' worth of incident reports involving deer and their damage to vehicles and property, provided by the police department.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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