Urban hunting of deer a no-go for now in Colorado Springs

Published: Dec. 27, 2018 at 7:06 AM MST
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After months of discussion over letting archers help with the deer overpopulation in Colorado Springs, City Council has shelved the idea for now.

If you've spent any amount of time in Colorado Springs, you've seen members of our deer population. It can make for a picturesque mountain setting, but wildlife officials and city leaders say the reality is darker.

"Last year was 306 deer we picked up on various roads, of being hit by cars, being hung up in fences and so forth," Councilmember Andy Pico told 11 News earlier this year.

As 11 News

, the deer population was reaching problematic levels. Seven months later, Colorado Springs deer have reached its biological carrying capacity, the area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife told our news partners at The Gazette.

“That’s where the number of deer in the landscape start negatively impacting the environment,” Frank McGee said. “There are places in town where you can see pretty distinct browse lines, where everything that grows on a tree or a bush that a deer can reach has been eaten.”

Currently, in southwest Colorado Springs, where the problem is greatest, deer are estimated at 20 per square mile -- roughly 10 times the amount in rural areas in the state. The overpopulation can wreak havoc on humans and deer alike: increased car crashes, disease outbreaks among animals, destruction of public and private property, antlers getting tangled in human objects, etc.

City leaders and wildlife experts have tossed around several ideas for population control, including relocation, sterilization, and -- by far most effective -- controlled urban hunting.

"We are not talking about having urban hunting off your front porch," Pico told 11 News in May.

The idea would have been a tightly-regulated hunting program involving bows and arrows, not firearms. The Gazette reports that the Air Force Academy had success with a similar deer hunting program in the late 80s, and other municipalities across the country have reported varying degrees of success.

But not everyone has the stomach for implementing the program. While the city previously hoped to pull the metaphoric trigger in September, they settled instead on a law prohibiting feeding wildlife.

"The appetite just wasn’t there, even on council,” Councilman Don Knight said of urban hunting.

Knight told The Gazette one concern was the injured deer dragging itself meters if not miles away from where it was shot. It's not uncommon for deer hit by arrows to continue moving, he said.

"The last thing we’d want to do is traumatize some little kid seeing a deer going down the street with blood pouring out of it,” Knight told The Gazette.

City Council has decided to collect more data over the next couple of years before giving a green light to urban hunting.

"Now we're going to go out and get a lot more data, take about two to three years to get a good count, find out what the herd is doing in the city," Knight said.