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Don’t use tax money to kill deer

Posted: Friday, Nov 9th, 2012

This deer on the city’s Alamosa Ranch property is not too concerned about the gawking public who share its space. Courier file photo by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — “’Deer’ me, let’s not ‘buck’ the issue and let’s not spent a lot of ‘doe’ on this thing. Why don’t we just leave the deer alone?”

Although Alamosa City Councilman Josef Lucero’s remarks were conveyed during Wednesday night’s city council meeting in a humorous manner, he summed up the sentiments of the majority of Alamosans who had responded to the city’s recent deer survey.

“I think the people have pretty much decided they are pretty happy with deer for the most part … leave them alone,” Lucero said after hearing a report on the deer survey that was mailed out with utility bills to city residents and was posted online.

City Manager Nathan Cherpeski shared the results with city council Wednesday night. He said of 3,090 surveys mailed out by the city, the city received 627 responses, which is a fairly good return.

The survey consisted of only three questions geared to help the city determine if residents believe there is a deer problem in Alamosa and whether they think the city should spend money addressing it, specifically by killing deer.

Cherpeski shared these results with the council:

• In your opinion, how would you describe the number of deer in the city limits?

Just right: 202 (33 percent)

Too many: 300 (49 percent)

Too few: 27 (4 percent)

Don’t know: 78 (13 percent)

• In your opinion, is the deer population causing you harm?

Yes: 202 (33 percent)

No: 416 (67 percent)

(Cherpeski said the majority of “harm” related to landscaping, although there were some comments about dogs being killed by deer. He said he was only aware of one deer/dog fatal incident that had been reported to the police.)

• Should the city spend taxpayer monies to cull/kill deer in the city limits?

Yes: 153 (24 percent)

No: 408 (65 percent)

Don’t know: 66 (11 percent)

Cherpeski said there is a clear majority of residents who do not want the deer harmed and do not want city funds used to kill them. He added there is a significant minority who do.

He added that the city staff has researched options. Specifically Pat Steenburg has researched options as part of his degree work for Adams State.

“There really aren’t any good simple solutions,” Cherpeski said.

He said other places that have conducted deer hunts or culled the herds in some other way generally discontinued the practice because it was not effective. He said the state uses hunts to manage the deer population, but he did not see that as a safe option in the city limits.

He added deer are smart, and after the first day of a hunt, they head to areas not included in the hunt where they are safe.

“Honestly the other day I saw a deer looking both ways before it crossed the road,” he added.

A hunt would require state approval as well.

“Staff’s perspective, we are at a loss. We don’t know what else to do,” Cherpeski said.

Cherpeski said the surveys also allowed respondents to write comments on the bottom, and he read all of the comments.

“They were quite interesting,” he said. “One said staff is not experts in deer, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. I don’t want to become an expert on deer.”

Cherpeski suggested if the city council wanted to pursue this issue further the council should probably consult with an expert such as a biologist. He said he did not know where the city might get one or how much it might cost.

Mayor Kathy Rogers said she thought it might not take that much money if the expertise was available from the parks and wildlife staff already. She said she did not want to spend a lot of money but believed the city wouldn’t have to.

She said she believed the city owed it not only to its citizens but also to the deer to study out what would be the best course of action.

The council unanimously asked staff to bring more information back to the council, specifically if state or federal entities already have expertise and staff who could assist the city with planning.

Cherpeski said other communities have set up task forces over their wildlife issues. Councilor Lucero said maybe the tree board would be a good group to tackle it. They could look into what kinds of plants and trees would be the best to grow here to discourage deer and then educate the public about it.

He said the deer are not going away, and it appeared most of the citizenry were happy with that.

Cherpeski said the exact number of deer in the city is unknown but may be upwards of 300.

Councilor Marcia Tuggle said the residents were clear about not wanting taxpayers’ money spent on this. She suggested spending some money to pay someone with expertise in this area.

Councilman Leland Romero said he knows of a resident whose son has been a sharp shooter with the military and he would be willing to cull the herd for $50 a deer.

Cherpeski said a state permit would still be required and probably additional personnel.

He added, “I don’t know what our liability is if we introduce people shooting in the city limits.”

Rogers said she has people talking to her daily about the deer. She said the city council needs to decide something one way or another, and there will be people unhappy with the decision, regardless of what it is.

“I want to get this decision behind us,” she said.

She added she lives where the deer are frequent visitors and she deals with it.

“I am not a deer killer. I don’t hate the deer. I love the deer,” Rogers said. “I do think the deer in our city make it unique. I think people come to our city and like seeing that … I have nothing against the deer.”

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