February 14, 2010 in Outdoors

Republic responds to deer problem

By The Spokesman-Review
Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife photo

A pickup with hay residue didn’t get past the nose of a hungry mule deer near Republic last winter. Before live-trapping began last summer, a least 101 deer were counted in the town of 1,000 people. Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
(Full-size photo)

Deer control in residential areas is controversial virtually anywhere it’s considered, and the Ferry County seat of Republic is no exception.

“We got a few threats last year in the jars they had around town asking for donations to trap the deer,” said Jim Kujala, a Spokane Valley retiree who’s trained and licensed to capture and relocate big game.

“It’s been a struggle to get everybody on board,” said Russ Foster, a member of Republic’s citizen committee to address the decade-long deer issue.

One neighbor doesn’t want the deer in town while another neighbor lures them in with feed, he said.

“Some people don’t want their lawns to look like barnyards,” Foster explained. “We’ve had a three or four dogs killed by deer and several people threatened, including a little girl.

“And then there’s the problem with somebody who likes to shoot arrows into them,” he said.

But while there’s a consensus to control the deer numbers, it’s not unanimous.

“Some people were spreading rumors in bars that we were killing the deer and dumping them in the river,” Kujala recalled.

The local newspaper already had reported that the Colville Confederated Tribes allowed the deer to be released on the reservation’s Hellsgate Game Reserve along the Columbia River. That was an important good-neighbor offering, Kujala said, since the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is picky about where deer can be transported.

“We had a few people sabotaging our traps, but other locals were helping us do the trapping,” Kujala said, noting that he caught and relocated 54 mule deer and three whitetails in Republic this fall and early winter. “If I had free reign, I probably could get the remaining 40 deer in about a week.”

But Republic is taking a timeout, Foster said. “We trapped mostly does and fawns, so we’re hoping maybe the bucks will just leave this spring,” he said.

“We’re taking a multipronged approach, working now to educate people on why they shouldn’t feed deer and how to interface with deer while keeping them wild.

“We may have to pick up the enforcement of the ordinance (that restricts wildlife feeding). It won’t do any good to trap the deer if people lure more in with feed.”

Foster said he was surprised at how much education is needed even in a rural area.

“We had to explain why the trapping was targeting mostly does and not bucks,” he said. “We don’t want their horns. We had to point out that the bucks don’t turn into three deer in the spring.

“Nobody wanted to get rid of all the deer, but it was out of control and it was going to get worse,” he said, noting that the citizen’s committee had counted 101 deer in the town of 1,000 people before the trapping.

“Town isn’t a healthy place for deer. Most of the ones we trapped were underweight.”

Deer removal is expensive for a small town, he said, noting that Kujala was paid $14,000 to remove 57 deer. However, nearly half the cost was funded by a grant from the Mule Deer Foundation, with additional money and all the transportation costs paid by the Colville Confederated Tribes.

“The reduction in deer has pretty much ended the deer problems at this time,” Foster said. “But we have a ways to go before we can call the problem fixed.

“And then we’re going to have to address the other problem – the wild turkeys. We have something like 100 of them in town going into this spring’s nesting season.”

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