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Oh deer--does Colville have a whitetail problem?

March 20, 2013

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Should the city do anything about deer inside the city limits?
There seemed to be controversy and concern about the issue of a seemingly growing whitetail deer herd in spring of 2011, when a local resident Mike Kisman brought complaints to the Colville City Council Chambers. Kisman thought there was a deer control issue that the city needed to address.
Kisman is not listed in the telephone book and could not be reached for comment on this article.
Colville Police Chief Robert Meshishnek presented a report to city council recently regarding steps the City of Republic has taken to counteract their deer problem.
“If it goes anywhere now, it’s up to council,” says Meshishnek.
In 2011, former Colville City Council member Pearl Mance moved and current council member Dorothy Bergin seconded a motion to authorize then Mayor Dick Nichols to submit a formal request to the appropriate authorities on behalf of the city council to request that said authorities attend a city council meeting and address the perceived deer population issue. The motion was passed.
At the March 29, 2011 council meeting, Nichols said he had sent a letter addressing the issue to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and invited them to attend a council meeting and explain what recourse the city might have in addressing the city’s deer population.
While there is no formalized survey or census for deer population within the Colville city limits from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, whitetail deer are a prevalent presence, and some would say distraction, in town.
The scenario is similar to what took place in Republic from fall 2009 to spring 2010.
According to Republic City Police Chief Jan Lewis, there was an overpopulation of deer in the city, resulting in the animals eating from trash bins and becoming sick.

Republic hired professional trapper

In 2010, Republic hired a professional trapper for $14,000, using funds that were donated by area businesses and individuals. Using clover traps, 56 deer were captured and relocated to the Colville Indian Reservation.
A deer committee was formed in the city, consisting of members of the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, Colville Confederated Tribes, and local volunteers.
Terry Keopke, a local meat processor, butchers the deer meat for free, with half of the carcass going to the Republic Food Bank and the other half going to the tribes.
“It’s not being wasted,” says Lewis of the deer meat. “I appreciate that, and I think the community does as well.”
A special hunt was also held half-a-mile beyond the city limits, with only individuals who carried WDFW Master Hunter permits allowed to par¬ticipate (go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/masterhunter for more information).
So far this year, according to Lewis, 14 deer have been harvested out of the 20 he police department is allowed to take through special harvest permits issued from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Stop feeding deer

As for Colville, the exact number of deer is hard to calculate. WDFW keeps track of the local deer population through hunter reports on their deer tags each hunting season, as well as by conducting deer counts through hikes and aircraft surveillance.
Currently, there is not an ordinance in the City of Colville that bans residents from feeding deer. Meshish¬nek says one could be implemented by city council, and the Colville Police Department would do its best to enforce it.
“I don’t have a personal opinion on the subject, but if council were to pass an ordinance, it would be our job to enforce it,” says Meshishnek. “It would be wrong not to.”
The issue comes down to a clash of values: those who want the deer gone from the city and those that want them to stay.
Colville City Council member Bill Beatty served on the volunteer wildlife commission for the city before running for council. The commission was formed in 2011 to address the issue of whether or not deer presented a problem within the city limits. Beatty says the commission put out requests for comment to the public and received 15 to 20 comments back.
“Nothing really definitive came out of it,” says Beatty. “Personally, I think there is a deer issue that comes from people feeding them, which shouldn’t happen.”
Beatty did add that he wasn’t certain an ordinance against feeding wildlife passed by council would hold much weight.
“And I don’t know how allowing hunting or relocation is going to help,” Beatty says. “If enough people step forward and say that this (deer population) is a problem, then I’m sure council would do something about it, but right now, I don’t think we’re hearing that.”

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