Steps toward reducing the urban deer population in Cody through a state permitted culling process is going forward.
But action by the Cody City Council on Tuesday night does not mean police sharpshooters will begin to selectively harvest does under the “permit governing lethal taking of wildlife” allowed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The permit process requires a detailed plan; one that should answer many questions posed by opponents who want the estimated 300 deer living in town to remain, with the possible exception of killing sick or injured deer for humane relief from suffering.
With a full council present, six of seven voted to direct police chief Chuck Baker to apply for the permit that would allow the City to harvest a specified number of deer per year. A caveat to the motion is the city will not go forward with a culling plan until details of the Cody Police Department’s plan are shared. Then the council will accept additional public input before deciding whether to approve the process.
Ward 3 councilman Stan Wolz gave the opposing vote, referring to results of a survey five years ago and of a recent questionnaire in which 60 percent of the 1,760 people who responded to the online questions felt it is important for the city to employ a deer management plan that reduces the urban deer population in city limits.
“I’ll be opposing it all the way through,” Wolz said. “From a 50/50 response five years ago to a 60/40 this time is not a resounding mandate. I feel the population is stable. This is expensive, and so for that reason I won’t support the motion.”
Some questioned the survey method and whether 1,760 anonymous responses to five questions were a valid representation of the community at large.
“There was no control,” said city administrator Barry Cook, acknowledging people from outside city limits could have responded.
Once a survey was taken on a computer, no one else could open the survey from that machine.
“They could go to another computer and take it,” he said. “We did the best we could.”
Alan Osterland, Cody regional wildlife supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, attended in an advisory role.
Participating in a discussion on the topic that took about an hour and a half, two Urban Deer Task Force Committee members, Richard Henderson and George “Mick” Barrus, and three of four others from the community voiced complaints and opposition. But other than enforcing speed and distracted drivers, and fencing out deer, few solutions were offered to typical problems.
Osterland estimated with labor of trapping and injecting contraception, the cost is $500 per doe per year.
Barrus said after lengthy study, the task force could only offer the recommendation the council cull the herd.
Henderson said many people in town like the deer. While he wasn’t against culling for the proper reason, he didn’t support arbitrarily harvesting to meet a certain quota.
“Do what we have to do to take care of lame and sick deer, but stop to think about it,” he said.
Karen Ballinger of Ward 2 is a council liaison to the committee.
“Five years ago, I didn’t fill out the survey because to me it wasn’t an issue,” she said. “Then, it was not a problem. Now I think there is a problem.”
Ward I councilman Donny Anderson said, while he “loves deer,” he doesn’t want to make a decision based on his opinion. Instead, he represented the many people who call him with concerns about the deer, and requests to euthanize have increased over the past five years.
“We don’t come up with these ideas as a council,” he said. “We are just trying our darnedest working with the public, listening to what people have to say, and listening to the majority.
“I wish people who are enjoying what’s going on [with urban deer] would call me.”
Anderson said this summer, three deer died in his three-acre property with no evidence of injury.
“It concerns me they’re possibly ill,” he said. “I don’t want to destroy them. I have nothing against them. I’m trying to represent folks for and against.”
Mayor Nancy Tia Brown echoed Anderson by saying those on the council hear both sides.
“Our job is to take the information and balance it the best we can,” she said. “That’s all we can do. It’s obviously a topic that’s not going to reach a 100 percent [agreement].”
“I think the point about sick deer is a very strong one,” Brown added. “I don’t know if they can be singled out that way, but we can certainly focus on that. No one has spoken about eradicating the population entirely. It’s a question of balance.”
Osterland said once the permit application is submitted, it could be issued as quickly as 2-3 weeks. Permits must be renewed annually and the city specifies the number of deer it intends to harvest.
(Rhonda Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)