Urban deer

A family of mule deer enjoy the warmer weather as they graze in the open lot next to the Sierra Trading Post call center in March 2015.

After five years of counting it has been determined the size of the Cody in-city deer herd has barely fluctuated.

“There are actually fewer deer than there were five years ago,” said Rick Manchester, the city point man overseeing the project through the Urban Deer Task Force.

The committee was formed to study the Cody mule deer population. Some residents were concerned deer were  proliferating and becoming a nuisance. Other residents were not bothered at all by the number of animals roaming streets, backyards or through business’ driveways.

The task force decided to collect data on deer over a five-year period and then return findings to the City Council.

Per-year numbers of deer include:

• 2011: 307 deer.

• 2012: 261.

• 2013: 296.

• 2014: 272.

• 2015: 290.

Game and Fish performed the counts for the city. Manchester, director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, said he is not surprised by the findings. He said his instincts told him there would not be much variation.

Manchester received the information in mid-January, is forwarding the numbers to the task force and as soon as is practical will convene the committee for a meeting to decide any course of action to recommend.

“We haven’t talked about it yet,” Manchester said.

The choices of what to do include culling the herd if it is felt to be too large for the habitat, leaving the deer alone or coming up with a completely different approach, an as-yet-unknown Plan C.

A recommendation will go to the City Council, which will determine whether any action should be taken.

There is no strict timetable that must be followed for either a task force meeting or sending forward a recommendation, Manchester said.

While the actual deer spotted each year were most certainly not all the

same deer, the overall total remained fairly stagnant at survey times.

 For the totals to remain almost the same each year there is a likelihood of some Cody deer wandering into the country and some rural deer wandering into the city when the counts were made.

That means there was no method in use to identify specific deer to see if the same deer were seen year after year.

“The paintball option was the way to do that,” Manchester joked.

One approach the task force might take before passing  on a recommendation to the council is to conduct a residents survey similar to the one done five years ago at the beginning of the project.

“The survey would be asking residents what their tolerance of deer is to see if sentiment has changed,” Manchester said.

 

(Lew Freedman can be reached at lew@codyenterprise.com.)

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