After years of hunts, a highly urbanized Ramsey County in certain spots still has deer in concentrations far higher than nature can properly sustain.
That was the verdict Tuesday among park professionals, and one that led the County Board to authorize still more deer culls in the coming months.
Here’s a quick rundown of what commissioners learned, and what they did Tuesday:
No aerial survey of deer could be conducted last winter due to the lack of snow cover, but the number of reported car-deer collisions in Ramsey County is rising annually — from 201 in 2014 to 235 in 2016 — despite deer counts that seem to be falling.
The problem is that several spots are overrun with deer. The county’s goal is to have no more than 15 to 20 deer per square mile of habitat. Yet one staff memo speaks of actual numbers up to seven times higher than that in spots.
The county likes to provide its archers with chances to kill and gather in deer. But when there are three to 10 times too many deer, it can bring in sharpshooters.
Archers will be authorized to take up to 115 deer for 2017-18, up from the 79 taken this past season. Sharpshooting “areas of interest” include locations in Maplewood and St. Paul.
The biggest authorized harvests will be in the Pig’s Eye area and Battle Creek, both with kills of up to 20, and both big jumps from 2016 (13 and 9, respectively).
In addition to collisions, which can be fatal, officials warn that excessive deer numbers “can be detrimental to the overall health of the herd” and raise the risk of Lyme disease-bearing ticks.
Commissioners voted unanimously without discussion to continue a program of deer culls that has gone on since 1999, despite opposition from some animal welfare organizations, which call for birth control injections instead.
Officials said the number of local jurisdictions with their own deer management programs is rising. Roseville is one place that, as complaints have risen within the past couple of years, has imposed first a feeding ban and then brought in sharpshooters to bait and take out deer.