Cody council deliberates over deer

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Cody City Council didn’t decide whether to cull the herd of about 300 deer living in town, but the council discussed the possibility at its Sept. 6 meeting.

“Before making the final decision, we wanted to check out the support with our community,” said Mayor Nancy Tia Brown.

Cody City Administrator Barry Cook reviewed those results with council members.

In a recent survey of 1,760 respondents, 60 percent said they favored a deer population reduction, said Rick Manchester, Urban Deer Task Force staff representative and director of Parks, Recreation and Public Sept. 8.

The task force was created in 2010.

There are around 263 to 283 deer in Cody, Cook said. “So, its hovering around 300 within the city limits over the last five years.”

The discussion at hand was whether to direct Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker to obtain a chapter 56 permit to authorize the killing of deer within the city from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Each permit is good for one year, said Alan Osterland, Game and Fish wildlife supervisor in Cody.

“The goal would be to take 50 deer per year over the next three years,” Cook said. “And that could be optional, depending on how the first year goes.”

Other Wyoming municipalities have been successful curbing urban deer, Baker said. Sheridan took 240 deer from 2012-14.

“Safety is certainly a key to this program,” Baker said. Police officers would identify safe, discreet areas to harvest deer. “Our goal is to reduce the number of conflicts as well.”

Brown asked about trapping deer or the use of contraceptives.

Bait and trapping runs the risk of high deer mortality and it’s time consuming, Osterland said. “We just don’t have the manpower. From the department’s perspective, it’s just not a viable option.”

Osterland said the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which Game and Fish is a member, said employing birth control would be costly, and he knows of no approved contraceptive for mule deer.

If a reduction plan is implemented, the venison will be donated to the needy.

Game and Fish samples every deer it can for chronic wasting disease (CWD), Osterland said. The first CWD-positive deer was found in Cody this past winter. If the permit is issued, every deer would be tested for disease, and if it was ill, it wouldn’t be donated.

Deer disparity

“I happen to be fond of the deer,” said Richard Henderson, task force member.

Removal should be humane and injured or diseased deer should be the targets, Henderson said.

Henderson, who lives on Newton Avenue, said two deer died in his backyard. One was hit by an automobile going too fast.

“You really don’t have a plan. You haven’t looked at the money,” said Dewey Vanderhoff of Cody. “You haven’t explained to the people of Cody how this is going to work.”

Vanderhoff said Cody police are not enforcing speed limits. Speeders, careless and distracted drivers are not paying attention.

“Two bucks died in front of my house this summer,” Vanderhoff said. Both drivers were locals. One was a distracted driver, he said. Vanderhoff said he called the city asking the carcass be removed. “Seven o’clock on Saturday night, they tell me just throw it in the dumpster.”

In all fairness, sometimes deer jump out from behind a bush, leaving the motorist no time to react, Baker said.

Plotting deer collisions can be difficult, because an injured animal will often leave the scene of the accident, Baker said. Cody officers are addressing complaints of speeders and enforcing speed limits in locations where deer collisions are frequent.

Henderson said he didn’t have a problem with culling if it is done safely. He did say he wonders where the money would come from if contraception is chosen.

Becky Walsh of Cody said she wasn’t convinced all survey respondents were from within city limits. “I don’t believe a 15 percent response is most people.”

Kathy McDonald of Cody said she did not understand what the public’s concern was. “I really feel that the deer are not a problem here in Cody.”

Next time

“We try to listen to our constituents,” said Councilman Donny Anderson. “We don’t want to make decisions on our feelings; we want to make decisions on the majority of the public.”

The meeting was to decide whether to seek a permit and solicit public input, Brown said.

“It isn’t that tonight makes it a done deal,” he said.

The council agreed to obtain a permit, but not to take any action until council members reviewed the permit and received public input.

“I feel like the population is stable, and I feel like this is going to be expensive,” said Councilman Stan Wolz. “For that reason, I won’t be supporting that motion.”

The next regular council meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20.

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