Game commission recommends Ross institute managed archery hunt to thin township’s deer population
Wednesday, February 26, 2020 | 2:40 PM
A state game warden is recommending Ross Township hold a managed archery hunt as a sure-fire way to thin the herd of the deer devouring expensive landscaping, causing vehicle wrecks and exposing residents to Lyme Disease from the ticks they carry.
Game Warden Zeb Campbell, whose district covers an area that includes Ross, outlined details of the proposal at a public meeting Tuesday that drew nearly 100 residents.
The meeting was organized by Commissioner Dan DeMarco, who has taken the lead on trying to address the problems caused by the township’s exploding deer population
At the recommendation of the game commission, Ross instituted a ban on feeding deer in 2018 as a first-step in its management plan.
DeMarco said the township tried to get residents to stop feeding deer a decade ago.
“We are here with a problem that has grown exponentially over 10 years ago,” he said. “Because 10 years ago we failed to do what we should have done. We should have had that ban in place and we should have been working toward controlling the population.”
DeMarco said he has received numerous complaints from residents about the damage caused by deer and a large number of the people he spoke with while campaigning door-door for his re-election campaign in the fall wanted to know “what are we going to do about the deer?”
Doing more harm than good
State game officials support feeding bans because putting out food can actually harm deer by spreading Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal condition that spreads through saliva when a healthy deer feeds from a pile of food previously visited by a sick animal.
During certain times of the year, deer who consume food other than what is available naturally can suffer serious digestive problems because their stomachs are designed to adapt to a smaller amounts of food when it is scarce.
Deer also can become habituated to eating from artificial food sources, which causes them to stop searching for food in the wild, further risking their ability to survive.
DeMarco said it is incumbent upon residents to notify the township when they see neighbors putting food out for deer “because we don’t have the ability to police to see who is feeding the deer all the time,” he said. “If you see it you need to let us know. I know people don’t want to do that, but it’s making the problem worse.”
Campbell noted that during the past decade, development in Ross has reduced wildlife habitats.
“The deer are eating themselves out of house and home, so they are going to eat your shrubs and plants,” he said. “It’s just not healthy for the deer to be overpopulated.”
He said the goal of the deer management program is to create a balance between the population and the natural resources that are available to them.
To do that, Campbell is suggesting that the township institute an archery program that would allow hunters on public property to bag deer.
Program’s goal puts safety first
Hunters accepted into the deer management program will have to prove they can handle a bow and arrow before they are allowed to participate, Campbell said.
“Safety is our number one concern. They’ll have to come out and shoot a bow and arrow to demonstrate proficiency,” he said. “We want to make sure people are making good shots and harvesting deer correctly.”
Campbell said the township also is considering requiring hunters carry an identification card that indicates they are participants in the program.
“We’re not looking at letting 500 people from across the state come in to hunt,” he said. “We’re looking at a controlled way to get who can handle archery hunting and our environment to help out with this situation.”
The program would operate during the regular archery season, which runs from mid-September until mid-December, and resumes again after a two week break.
Campbell said the township’s program also could be designed to achieve maximum results by requiring that the first deer bagged is a doe.
“If you want to drop the population, you have to take out the doe,” he said. “They are the ones who are going to keep repopulating. You only need one buck to take care of many doe to keep the population going.”
Additionally, the township could require that the meat from the deer killed be donated to the Hunters Sharing the Harvest to help needy families.
Campbell said several other options for controlling the deer population are available, but are not practical because of the cost.
He noted that while electronic devices that use flashing light to scare deer off “might work on a personal property level, it’s just not feasible when you looking at the big areas Ross Township is in charge of, it’s just not feasible.”
Using birth control also is not an effective way to control the deer population, he said “and it will cost a lot of money.”
The game commissioner conceded that while the archery program “is not going to solve every issue and is not going to be the be-all and end-all “it will help drop the deer population and help take care of the issue we are seeing today with car accidents, ticks and deer coming in and eating shrubbery and destroying property.”
Hashing out the details
DeMarco said township officials will have to determine the specific details of how the program will operate, including which parks and other property owned by the township hunters will be allowed in to harvest deer.
Campbell said while the program will only allow hunters on public land, private property owners and local homeowners’ associations with sufficient land can allow permit hunting on their properties.
The township has not set a timeline for when the deer management program will be launched. The board of commissioners is expected to create an advisory committee at its March 2 meeting to help develop the program, DeMarco said.
But for many of the residents who attended Tuesday night’s meeting, it can’t happen too soon.
“All of these homeowners are losing dollars every year,” said Cindy Allenbaugh of Ross. “No matter what you put in, the deer eat it.”