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Manti’s deer control program,through controversial, is reasonable

 

 

We believe Manti City has created a reasonable plan to control the supposed urban deer problem.

Last Thursday, Manti City’s citizens talked with the city council about deer control. There is certainly no consensus of the citizens who attended the meeting. Although Manti is talking about fixing its “deer problem,” other Sanpete communities are likely watching the outcome of the proposal.

Thirty-eight citizens spoke openly about the proposal at the meeting, and about 12 of them approved of the plan. The proposal is for Manti City to use live traps placed in problem areas identified within the city, or on private property with the owner’s consent. The traps would be baited, and upon catching a deer, Manti’s animal control or public works staff would euthanize the animal. There would be no shooting of firearms in the city.

Those in favor of control believe the deer cause significant and costly problems: eating vegetables and fruit during the summer, damaging park property and young trees in the winter and being a hazard to car traffic in the city. There may have been a time when citizens only saw deer in town during the winter, but no longer; it is clear there is a population of about 200 to 250 deer in Manti who stay here year-round.

The council cannot be faulted for coming up with a plan. Residents have complained and asked, “Can’t you do something? Our gardens are being ruined by deer, unless every one of us puts up a 6-foot deer fence around our properties.” The proposal aims to reduce deer population by 100 to 150 between August and October 2020.

Most of those opposing the plan think citizens are being petty by killing the deer instead of taking responsibility for their gardens by fencing them. One citizen said, “$20 worth of tomatoes was not worth taking an animal’s life.” The opposing argument may be equally valid, that a family’s crops are worth more than a wild animal, Bambi notwithstanding.

Deer are wild animals, and for many, they are also food or sport. Every year, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources issues deer permits for some 90,000 deer to be harvested. Deer are not an endangered species, but their numbers are being managed.

Is there a difference between shooting 90,000 deer in the mountains and killing 150 deer within Manti City limits?

Only quantitatively.

So, what is the cost? The city just doesn’t know yet what the proposal would cost and we believe the city should make its final decision only when it has solid numbers of that cost. Some citizens at the meeting said the problem was just not bad enough to justify spending any money.

Animal control officers already have approval to “manage” dogs and cats in a community. If we can justify controlling “pets” why should deer present a moral problem?

Men have battled animals before. In the ‘30s, “rabbit drives” were seen as the only way to control millions of rabbits who were eating everything farmers tried to grow in Kansas and Australia. Man’s right to have food is more important than the lives of wild animals, then.

Mankind has driven some species to extinction, but certainly deciding whether deer can live in Manti City, or even all Sanpete cities, is not going to damage the viability of the species.

The benefits? Citizens can plant their gardens and get to eat their vegetables. Perhaps a couple of deer-car collisions will be avoided.

The solution comes down to our individual morals and sensitivities. We believe even the 80 people who attended the meeting isn’t a large enough sample for the council to decide what citizens want, one way or another. The council is going to have to decide what is best for the city.

Anytime a decision has emotional consequences, it’s difficult to make. It’s not fair to castigate the city whichever way they decide.

If not too costly, the council should decide to move forward with the proposed plan. The mayor said the plan would not be implemented for about a year, and that’s fine; it gives the city and citizens time to learn more about the specifics.