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Utah DWR gives tips for co-existing with urban deer, other wildlife

November 21st, 2013 Posted in Opinion

By Chelsea Hunter

NORTH LOGAN — Mule deer have been living in the North Logan-Hyde Park area for as long as anyone can remember. This urban deer population has become a problem for the last 15 to 20 years as people have continued to build further up the hills. The difference is, now officials are looking to do something about it by trying some different methods to address the problem, since there hasn’t been much done in the past.

Part of the urban deer herd that lives in the North Logan area. Photo courtesy Darren DeBloois.

Wildlife biologist Darren Debloois said it’s likely the deer have been there forever, and the herd is anywhere between 500 and 1,000, maybe more.

“Some people really like to see deer in their yards,” said Debloois. “Other people really don’t like deer, and some people are neutral. But there are definitely people that are passionate either way.”

He said bucks come down from the mountains this time of year to try and breed with does that stay in town most of the year.

“There have been some bucks that have shown up in the last five years,” said Chris Schulze with the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). “Some of these bucks are really big and have really big racks. They get a lot of interest from local sportsman and people in the area.”

The issue used to be deer getting into agricultural land where they would get into haystacks, or eat crops and harm people’s livelihood. Now most of the complaints come from landscaping issues.

“Anytime you’re talking about deer that are living in a city, there are some concerns,” said Schulze. “Public safety issues regarding hunting, or depredation issues. Which means damage caused by the deer to people’s plants and crops, but it can also be someone’s bushes or flower gardens, or trees.”

While the deer can be pests, Schulze said the DWR discourages people from trying to haze the deer themselves. Whether it be shooting at them with a paintball gun or a BB gun, even if it’s not killing or injuring the animal it would still be considered harassing wildlife.

DWR has some helpful insight on their website about what to do when living with urban mule deer. However, if all attempts fail, the DWR has programs in place where they can give a permit for someone to hunt within the city. However, if the city decides they don’t want to allow that, then officers of the DWR will go in at night and shoot deer out of people’s yards, if the city allows it. Then the deer meat may be donated to local residents, or food pantries.

If hunting within the city is permitted, North Logan Police Chief Kim Hawkes said that every area they hunt on would need to have permission from a property owner and has to have at least a 600-foot radius.

“Every home within two football fields you would have to have written permission from,” said Hawkes. “Not just the complainers, but also those that love having the deer in their yard. That’s going to be almost impossible to do, and it’s not really safe to think about doing in a neighborhood.”

Debloois said they are currently working on a plan that has been used in Bountiful and other areas where they trap and herd the deer. “The public seems to be more tolerant of a trap and relocate type of option than they are when we just go in and shoot them,” he said.

It’s not known how successful the long-term survival of the relocated deer will be, he said. It depends on where they move them to and how well they adapt. In the past the deer usually die within a year because they don’t know the area and don’t do very well.

With deer in town and more coming down for the winter, Schulze said it could potentially bring predators into the area, such as coyotes and cougars that will try to utilize the food source. Cougars are rarely seen but have been spotted this season.

“There’s more than one cougar,” said Hawkes. “But cougars are territorial so there won’t be more than one in an area. There have been two sightings that I am aware of. One was at 1600 East headed eastbound; it was at a pretty good run, not just meandering.”

While running into a cougar isn’t a common occurrence, Schulze said the DWR always appreciates a phone call after a cougar is spotted, even if there isn’t an immediate cause for concern. If a person ever does feel legitimately threatened by a cougar the first thing they should do is call 911 or the local dispatch to get someone there as soon as possible.

Schulze said the chances of seeing a coyote are much greater than ever seeing a cougar, because coyotes live close to town and are considered a nuisance. “We make sure that people understand that in the state of Utah coyotes are not protected,” he said. “A person can kill a coyote any time of year, without a license. The legislature years ago put forward hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay a bounty on coyotes. If someone kills one, and gives it to us, it’s a 50 dollar bill to them.”

But here is still no tolerance for hunting coyotes in city limits. “Even though they’re not protected, that doesn’t allow a person to shoot too close to your neighbor’s house or trespass onto someone’s property or shoot at night,” said Schulze. “There are still other laws in place for public safety that supersede that.”


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