News of the Wild: Urban Deer Management Proposal in Missoula

This week Missoula City Councilman Dick Haines asked fellow council members and the Missoula community to weigh in on the issue of urban deer management in Missoula.

The proposed program is styled after the Helena Urban Deer Management Program implemented in 2008, which sets baited traps throughout town. The deer that are caught are euthanized and the meat is harvested and given to families in need.

There’s room for a modern-day Bambi story in there somewhere…

It seems the consensus is that the Helena program has worked well; numbers of urban deer-related incidents have fallen, including injuries from car accidents.

I’m from Minnesota and the deer population is about the same as Montana’s human population (around one million). However, I must say, while back home deer are certainly numerous, I had never seen a deer walk down a sidewalk and literally use the cross-walk to cross the street until I moved here.

One day my dog and I were almost trampled by a herd of deer right off of South Avenue.

We have our own version of urban deer management in Bemidji, MN (where I am from.) But it is far more barbaric and potentially scarring than the more humane and less visible technique Missoula is considering.

One day I drove up on a truck that had struck a deer. My 12-year-old sister and her friends happened to be in this truck and were standing on the side of the road crying staring at the poor crippled creature in the street.

As I was trying to console this group of sobbing tweens, a man pulled up behind us in a rusty old pick-up.  He jumped out of his car and nonchalantly pulled a machete from the back of his truck. Upon seeing this, the crippled deer ran into the forest, closely followed by the grizzled man with a wiry grey beard waving his machete in the air.

The little girls all screamed.

I quickly ushered them into the truck and asked the driver to leave. No need to scar the little girls even further with the image of that man dragging his bounty back to his truck.

I greatly prefer Missoula’s solution.

However, if we are to implement this program into Missoula, I request it include a dead deer pickup service. The first year I lived in Missoula, a deer was hit on McDonald Street right outside my apartment. The deer spent exactly one week rotting on the sidewalk outside my place.

One night I watched as a truck full of drunken kids stopped to pull the deer carcass from the sidewalk out into the middle of the street. Apparently there isn’t much for entertainment in Missoula on a Tuesday night…

I called the police and asked (for the fourth time) that someone come and remove the carcass from the neighborhood, since now it had become a traffic hazard.

About an hour later a police officer arrived, put on a pair of rubber gloves, dragged the animal back to the sidewalk and promptly left. This was not exactly the solution I had hoped for.

So what do you think? Should we let the Bambis of Missoula roam freely throughout town? Or, has it become a problem which needs to be dealt with? (No machetes involved hopefully…)