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Difficult vote, but decision will enable Manti to responsibly control urban deer herd

On Aug. 15, we had a near capacity crowd at a public hearing hosted by the Manti City Council concerning a proposed plan for controlling a growing herd of deer that have taken up residence in the city.

Some residents expressed frustration with damage caused by deer to their gardens, plants, shrubs and trees. Others opposed population control for a variety of reasons and said it is wrong for the city to kill deer.

The meeting was lively and we heard passionate arguments on both sides—from those suffering property damage caused by deer and those opposed to population control.

Your elected council members and I welcomed the debate, and appreciated your interest and comments. We understood a final decision by the council would be controversial. As I stated at the beginning of the public hearing: “It appears that no matter what the ultimate outcome, we will disappoint some of our citizens and constituents.”

After three weeks of consideration of arguments heard at the public hearing, the issue was discussed again at our Sept. 4 council meeting.

I opened the discussion by reviewing the hearing and the polarized feelings on the issue. I shared my feelings with the council explaining that the deer herd on the mountain is controlled by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) through issuance of hunting tags.

Then I observed we have a resident deer problem in Manti and have applied for a permit from DWR to manage (or control) that population. The implementation of the plan would allow the city to control the population of city deer, just as hunters control the population of mountain deer.

After allowing each council member to share his or her feelings, I called for a motion to accept the proposed plan, which passed unanimously. I realized that this was a difficult vote for the council because of the emotion on both sides of the issue, but ultimately, I believe the vote came down to the obvious need for control of the resident herd.

The vote by the council to accept the plan does not obligate the city to begin killing deer. No control efforts will be implemented this year. The city’s plan is limited to live trapping and euthanizing within the trap. There will be no hunting, or rifle or archery shooting of deer. The city plans to borrow six traps from the DWR without cost. Here’s how we see the plan working:

  1. Each year prior to July 1, city staff and elected representatives will meet to review and discuss complaints from residents about property damage and to decide which areas (if any) are suitable for placement of live traps.
  2. In the event that a decision is made to place traps, it would occur only on private property where owners agree to placement of the trap.
  3. Placement of traps and control measures will be performed by city staff.
  4. Any deer euthanized will be harvested for beneficial use.
  5. The annual control program would not begin before Aug. 1 and would end prior to Oct. 31.
  6. The areas selected for placement of traps and the control window (Aug. 1-Oct. 31) will support our desire to avoid the capturing mountain deer.

It is assumed that about 15-20 deer will be captured annually. Once that number is reached, control efforts will end for the season. But they may be discontinued by the city at any time for any reason.

Again, we appreciate the input we have received on both sides of this issue and welcome continued questions and concerns concerning our decision.