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EDITORIAL: Allow urban hunters to cull deer in Colorado Springs

By: The Gazette editorial board
December 28, 2017 Updated: December 28, 2017 at 12:42 pm
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More than a half million humans live among wildlife in the forested mountain terrain that defines metropolitan Colorado Springs, America's 39th largest city. It seems the perfect fusion of urban and rural.

For wildlife, things are getting crowded.

Urbanization creates a comfortable eco-system for some wild animals, including deer.

"Cities have so many advantages for them," said Bryan Lueth, urban wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as quoted by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Deer feel safer in cities, as wolves, coyotes, lions or other predators are less likely to attack them. Gardens, fruit trees and human food disposal provide year-round food supplies.

Deer prefer plowed streets and shoveled sidewalks over the exhausting routine of trudging through deep snow. Steam grates, building foundations, engines and other human objects provide warmth at night.

Because deer like big cities, growth in deer population has accompanied growth in human population.

In the early 20th century, about 500,000 white-tailed deer lived in the United States. Today, their numbers exceed 25 million.

A normal deer density is between 2 and 3 animals per square mile in the wild. In southwest portions of Colorado Springs, density has reached about 20 deer per square mile.

People and deer coexist quite well, and humans typically enjoy watching wild animals in their yards.

All good things have limits, including deer populations. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials believe deer density in Colorado Springs has become dangerous to humans and animals alike.

Deer/vehicle collisions are rising. Excessive density increases the likelihood of disease.

The question is not whether we need to cull the population. The question is how.

Parks and Wildlife officials want city officials to consider an urban deer hunting program. Qualifying applicants would bow-hunt deer under strict supervision. Parks and Wildlife would donate all meat to charities.

Fencing and repellents don't control the population and have had mixed results at reducing car collisions.

Other options include chemical sterilization, trapping and relocation, trapping and sterilizing, or trapping and euthanizing.

None of these options seems pleasant, but this is not a perfect world in which we can have a limitless number of deer living among us.

Well-regulated urban hunting programs have worked for years in Minneapolis, and other large cities that have ethical obligations to manage wildlife populations.

Natural predators keep deer populations healthy in the wild. In the city, this unfortunate duty falls to humans.

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