BOUNTIFUL - Non-lethal ways of controlling Bountiful’s deer population are favored by the city council.
That was made clear during a recent retreat, where ways to control the city’s deer population were discussed at length.
As a start, the council expects to pass a “No Feed” ordinance Feb. 25, continuing its cooperative effort with the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources.
That agency is conducting a non-lethal deer removal program using traps from Bountiful Ridge Golf Course and the Mill Street park property near Bountiful High School. Deer are removed to a site in Tooele County.
This follows a short-lived effort about four years ago where about 16 deer were shot by DWR sharp-shooters with backup from the Bountiful Police Department.
Deer became a hot topic in the city, with a public hearing at that time drawing a packed house and many passionate comments from residents.
Most people spoke in support of using non-lethal means to control the deer population, said City Attorney Russell Mahan.
Thirty deer were removed from traps at the two sites, said Chad Wilson, a DWR biologist who is overseeing the program. That was as of a few weeks ago.
“We bait the traps in the evening, before it gets dark, and go back in the morning,” he said, indicating the trapped deer stay “pretty calm.”
The cost of removing deer averages between $400 and $1,000, Wilson said.
Mortality averages about 50 percent, which he said is “as high as we could expect” with deer.
The pilot program is set to run through August of 2015. Highland, Utah County, is currently also involved, using trained volunteer bow hunters.
Council members agreed something needs to be done to control the population.
“I see a significant number of deer” when driving to and from Val Verda, said Councilwoman Beth Holbrook.
Police Chief Tom Ross said the problem of deer within the county has escalated over the past 20 years to where they’re now seen on Main Street and further west.
“People can’t even use their yards, parents can’t let their kids play outside or let their pets out,” he said of some areas.
“I do believe there will come a time where we have to do something. Probably a very humane way is to cull the population,” Ross said.
No accurate deer count is available but estimates put the number at 500 or more within the city.
“There’s no humane way when you’re talking about reducing deer herds,” said Councilman John Pitt.
But currently, many deer are being killed by collisions with vehicles. That’s to the point police cars are retrofitted with push bars, the chief said.
If the city were to get serious about controlling deer, “it would take a gigantic program to take out hundreds of deer,” Mahan said.
Ross emphasized his desire for humane treatment, relating experiences growing up.
“I grew up in Yellowstone National Park, spent every summer there until I was 18. My dad was a ranger,” he said.
“We would try to manage wildlife. I’m very sensitive and appreciate wildlife,” Ross said.
Wilson said the traps will probably be used until month’s end. After that, and snow melt, deer are less likely to seek food sources offered in a trap, he said.
As noted in the Feb. 13 Davis Clipper, North Salt Lake is also imposing a no-feed ordinance but will be considering a deer control program, as well.