Relocate Bountiful deer north? Points on both sides

Dec 28 2010 - 11:43pm

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BOUNTIFUL -- Is there a better way to deal with the population of domestic deer in Bountiful than the culling program that involves shooting the deer within city limits?

John and Kathy Vicars think so, but the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources is not so sure.

The couple said a better solution to the problem of the wild animals invading people's yards and running through the streets of town would be to trap the deer and relocate them. They even offered 8,000 acres of their property, which is three miles east of the Nucor Steel plant in Garland, as a new home for the deer.

"When you shoot them, that's final," John Vicars said. "Why not give them a chance to live?"

He said there already are deer living on that land, as well as surrounding land owned by the state of Utah, and that there is plenty of room for more deer. Vicars also said Utah hunters would benefit if the wildlife were put where it could be hunted, rather than "murdered on the streets in Bountiful."

The Vicars said they have contacted Bountiful and the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources, but claim their inquiries fell on deaf ears.

"They don't want to listen," John Vicars said.

But Phil Douglass, northern region outreach manager for the DWR, said the DWR not only has listened, but has already tried what the Vicars are proposing. He said the DWR in Southern Utah has done some extensive work in attempting to transport deer and they have kept a lot of data, which shows that trapping and transporting the deer is not a solution.

"They just did not find any success with that whatsoever," Douglass said. "The animals did not survive for whatever reason."

Vicars, who said he trapped deer and also transported elk while working at the Hardware Ranch for Utah Fish and Game in 1970-1972, admits there would likely be casualties in his plan of trapping and transporting the deer; however, he believes some would survive.

Vicars said that when he contacted the DWR, he was told the deer would die if they were moved.

"They're going to die anyway," Vicars said.

Douglass said it comes down to a humane issue as well.

"To me, this is kind of similar to people who are working in animal shelters who love animals but do have to euthanize them," Douglass said. "With this whole issue, we want people to understand that we are advocates for wildlife. That's what we do. That's what our job is and our personal interest is helping wildlife. There are some circumstances where we have to call the hearse. It's done in the safest, most humane way that we can possibly do it."

Like many Bountiful residents who have dealt with the deer ruining their yards and causing accidents on the roads, Scott Whittaker wants the problem to be solved. When the city of Bountiful sent out a survey during the summer with options of what to do, his first vote was to thin the herd. The other options were to relocate the deer at the cost of those who wanted the relocation or to basically do nothing.

Whittaker said he does not like the killing of animals, but the problem needed to be solved and he thinks the city of Bountiful and the DWR made the right choice.

"These are as close to domestic deer as you can get," Whittaker said. "They've changed their eating habits. They're eating the fruit tree limbs in people's yards. It's a hard issue, but I think they've selected the best thing."

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