After years of complaints about an “unsustainable” number of deer in Roseville, the city will hire sharpshooters for the first time to thin the herd.
The move follows a wildlife management ordinance passed in 2015 that imposed a deer feeding ban amid a rising tide of griping about issues such as damage to garden plants.
Approval to move ahead with the hunting passed the City Council on a voice vote earlier this week, with one council member — Tammy McGehee — abstaining.
“Part of the damage to peoples’ property could be the unintended consequence of people not being able to feed them, so they move on to the hosta and the rhubarb,” McGehee said. “If you are that upset, move somewhere else.”
Other council members, though, said they hear a lot of complaints.
“I love the nature we have here,” said Council Member Jason Etten, “but our natural system is out of balance and we need to step in and control it.”
Reports that deer in some cases are “standing their ground” when people approach, rather than turning tail and racing off, are troubling, he said.
A staff memo to the council reported that City Hall continues “to receive complaints and deer counts show the deer population in Roseville is unsustainable.”
Residents were invited to share their views about hunting deer online at the city’s web forum, speakuproseville.org/. More than 100 responses had been recorded by the time of the meeting.
“The deer population has definitely increased over the last 10 years,” Mary Rhode wrote. “The deer eat many plants in our yard. They come right up on our deck to eat vegetables and flowers. They are a driving danger at night on our roads. I support a reduction in the deer population.”
Less than an hour later, Susan McMahon weighed in on deer.
“We enjoy them immensely,” she wrote. “They’re so beautiful, and no matter how often we see them, we are still awed.”
Parks director Lonnie Brokke told the council that deer surveys done with Ramsey County over the past decade or so show a distinct increase, as do the number of collisions reported and deer carcasses recovered. The 2016 survey found 52 of the animals, which he said is far more than the natural habitat in a first-ring suburb can reasonably support.
He offered as options either bowhunting by local hunters as sport, or trapping in cages, in addition to government sharpshooters. But council members disliked those choices for various reasons.
Since the feeding ban was imposed last year, Brokke said, six complaints have come in about violations of the ban and been addressed by enforcement officers.
The best sharpshooting months are January through March, Brokke said. Potential locations for deer removal within Roseville include Central Park-Dale East, a compost site, Ladyslipper Park and Owasso Hills Park.
“We’re just getting our feet wet on this,” he said. “We’ve not done this before.”
Some of the sites are limited in size, he said, but sharpshooters don’t need as much acreage to work with as the other methods. The cost will depend on the time spent, but could come in around $6,000.
Mayor Dan Roe said he knows that people enjoy deer, but added that despite any culling, “I have a feeling people will still have plenty of deer to enjoy.”