Fernan Village deer are participating in a first-of-its kind relocation program.
The small city on the eastern edge of Coeur d’Alene is the first municipality where Idaho Fish and Game officials have allowed live deer trapping to take place.
So far the unwilling four-legged participants have fared well, surviving capture and relocation to a wildlife management area near Rose Lake.
The goal is to cut down on the nuisance caused by an overpopulation of deer invading Fernan Village yards. The town enacted a wildlife feeding ban last year, but when that wasn’t enough, trapping became the next alternative.
Fernan Village Mayor Jim Elder said he couldn’t ask for a better outcome.
“It’s working. We’ve had no casualties,” Elder said.
The town did have one escapee, however. The first deer trapped managed to get out and run away.
By Wednesday morning, however, four deer had been trapped and relocated. The plan was to continue trapping through the end of the month.
“They’ve been getting one a day,” said Idaho Fish and Game’s Mark Taylor.
“The department’s involvement in this is really oversight,” Taylor explained. “We’re not trapping or paying. The city is. They’re hiring the trapper. We’re just making sure it goes okay.”
Trapper Bill Haywood, owner of Sound Varmint Control in Coeur d’Alene, typically captures skunks, birds, squirrels, coyotes and other problem animals. Though this is the first time he has trapped deer, Haywood said the process is simple.
“The city deer are pretty stupid,” Haywood said.
A deer is lured overnight into the large traps with food – hay, apples and carrots. Once inside, a door closes behind it.
Haywood covers the deer’s head with a bag the following morning, transfers it to a travel container and then releases it in an area where it will eat its natural food rather than Fernan Village flowers and plants.
The traps, set in a vacant lot next to Mayor Elder’s house, are closed during the day.
“We don’t want to stress the deer anymore than we have to,” Taylor said. “During the day there would be traffic and people walking by.”
Fernan Village officials last year set aside $8,000 for deer relocation. At a cost of $200 per deer, the trapping costs this spring are unlikely to exceed $1,500, Elder said.
That means money would be available for more trapping in late fall if the Idaho Department of Fish and Game permits it.
Elder said the deer can only be trapped after their fawns are weaned and prior to fawning season the following spring – a period running from about November to March. The first test run at trapping was delayed until late this month because of snow.
The timing is meant to protect doe and fawn, Taylor said. “There is a risk of mortality any time you are handling wild critters.”
With success in Fernan Village, similar trapping programs could be started in other Idaho towns, he said.
“It’s been a really cool pilot program,” Taylor said. “There are cities all over the state that have been watching this.”
But Fernan Village Mayor Elder said it’s still too soon to know if the trapping will make a noticeable dent in the town’s deer population over the long haul.
Elder pointed out that people in Coeur d’Alene are still feeding deer.
“One concern is it you move 10 deer, 10 more could come in,” he said. “When spring comes and the flowers start blooming, we could have as many deer as last year.”
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