BOUNTIFUL -- Despite protests, a program to thin the population of domestic deer within city limits, will include at least one more evening shoot before the end of the year, a spokesman for the state's Division of Wildlife resources said.
Phil Douglas, a northern region outreach manager for the DWR, said one more evening shoot is scheduled as part of a program between the state and city to manage the deer population. In four sessions held over almost three months to date, there have been 12 deer culled, he said.
The latest hunt came just hours after protestors staged a rally in front of City Hall on Tuesday, asking to terminate the culling effort, and to reopen the issue for public discussion.
Officials are expected to evaluate the effectiveness of the program as early as next month, according to City Manager Tom Hardy.
Protestors have suggested the city and state should look at other options, in trying to manage the deer population, including potential height restrictions for fencing in the city, a preventative birth control drug "Gona-Con" or a supplemental feeding program to draw the deer away from the residential area and farther up into the mountains.
Phil Gray, of the DWR, called the culling agreement with the city the first formal attempt in the state to manage a deer population within a city. He took odds with some of the issues being raised by protestors, suggesting the facts show that officials used the best method available in culling the herd. Gray noted no adult bucks were killed in the culling effort, only does and fawns.
Gray noted the possibility of using "Gona-Con" as a birth control measure on the mule deer would be both illegal and unethical, since the experimental drug has had mixed results in Maryland and New Jersey with whitetail deer, and has never been tested formally on mule deer -- which is what is found in Bountiful.
He also suggested nature provides a natural method to cull deer, which is dictated by the amount of winter range forage available. He said trying a supplemental feeding program could actually end up skewing a natural process.
Hardy and city officials have maintained the focus of the program is to manage the deer population, estimated to be as high as 500 within the city limits, not to eliminate it.
The program calls for a DWR marksmen to go in the company of a Bountiful police officer on property, where the homeowners have given the city written permission to access the migrating herds of deer.
Douglas notes a number of the deer killed by the marksmen were already injured, before they were culled. City officials have also maintained that the number of deer killed on local roadways, or having to be put down by the BPD, is almost equal to the number being culled in the program over the same stretch of time.
Any kind of management program that involves shooting deer is still not acceptable, according to Caryn Larrinaga, who was among the two dozen protestors to suggest city officials should be more attentive to the voice of the people.
She said an informal city survey showed 60 percent of the residents were opposed to killing the deer. She handed out a flier that detailed potential alternatives, including the fencing, birth control and shift in feeding program.
Protestors briefly confronted some city officials as they left the meeting on Tuesday night, but the protest was staged largely without incident.
One banner held by protestors simply asked, "Would you shoot Rudolph?"
Hardy was able to find some humor in the effort. He noted Rudolph was a reindeer, not a mule deer.
Chief Tom Ross said as far as he knows the cost of the program to the city is in the man-hours provided in having an officer available for the four nights of hunting. He said officials monitored the hunts closely to ensure safety was a major consideration.
Meat from deer killed is being donated to feed the hungry and homeless, through the local chapter of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Kelly Bingham, a program coordinator for the FHFH, said the chapter will pick up costs of processing the meat.
Ross and Douglas noted most of the costs of the program are personnel related. No price tag has been put on the program to date.