ALAMOSA — Deer are once again in the crosshairs of city officials.
During a recent work session, Alamosa city councilors and staff discussed their options in curbing the deer population within the city limits.
Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks said city staff has been in communication with the Division of Wildlife (Colorado Parks & Wildlife) about options for reducing the deer numbers in Alamosa. The division “probably thinks we do need to do something,” she said, but is not in favor of firearm hunting, birth control or trapping/relocating. There could be a potential for archery hunting, she said.
She said trapping and relocating deer is not humane, with many dying from the stress. It is also an expensive option, she said. Birth control is also too expensive.
Brooks said this is not their natural habitat within the city, but there is no way to eliminate them altogether, “because we are not going to build a wall.”
The city council, staff and wildlife officials would have to determine what is an acceptable number to try to achieve, she said.
Alamosa Police Chief Ken Anderson said in 2014, the last time the city did a count, there were 162 deer within the city limits, and he said the deer population is likely larger now.
He said in two years the city has received 167 calls related to deer, ranging from accidents to injured deer or deer with something stuck to their antlers. Anderson said he works closely with the wildlife officials on calls such as injured deer because the deer belong to the state of Colorado.
Another call the police receive is for attacks by deer on domestic animals such as dogs, Chief Anderson said. The greater the population, the more this can be a problem, he said.
“Where I live there’s deer in my yard every day,” he said. “They are not scared. In fact they are pretty much pets. They are not intimidated by humans, which is somewhat concerning.”
Brooks added, “They don’t have natural predators other than cars maybe within the city limits, so their numbers are not naturally going to go down.”
Chief Anderson said the deer in Alamosa tend to stay within a 10-12-block radius, not migrate out of the area. “I have got the same deer within my neighborhood all the time,” he said. “I know which ones they are. They don’t move around.”
Anderson said he was concerned about using firearms to hunt deer because a bullet can travel 1,500 feet per second.
He said he had concerns with arrows as well. “Arrows still travel at high velocity. They are still a deadly weapon.”
Archery hunts would have to be held in areas where there would not be safety concerns with houses nearby, he said.
If Alamosa allowed an archery hunt, it would have to be coordinated and approved through the division of wildlife, Anderson said. City staff has mapped out areas where there are greater acreages in town (five ore more acres) where hunting might be allowed, if the city goes that direction.
Anderson is also researching what other cities are doing. The town of Elizabeth, for example, allows people to hunt within the city limits if they obtain the appropriate license. “They are allowing hunting but not with firearms,” he said.
He said Elizabeth had a population of about 200 deer and has gotten it down to about 50, a number it maintains. Hunting there is only allowed on city owned property.
Brooks said the council’s job in this discussion is hard because there are two sides to this. However, she said if the city decides to start something to reduce the deer population it would need to make an ongoing commitment or it would not be successful in reducing the numbers.
Alamosa held a limited hunt on the golf course in 2007 that made national news, and the city would like to avoid that kind of publicity in the future, Brooks said, so the city needs to act in a way that does not draw undue attention to itself. The deer hunt at that time was terminated because of public backlash. During that hunt, 13 deer were taken out.
“There are people out there that don’t want anything to happen to the deer,” she said.
Brooks added that if the city instituted any kind of deer reduction program, the deer meat would be donated through a program operated by parks & wildlife.
Questions that would need to be resolved are: would hunters have to pass an archery proficiency test? How many licenses would parks/wildlife allow? Would hunters be accompanied by a wildlife officer?
Also, hunters would not be allowed to kill bucks or fawns but just does.
Councilor Liz Hensley asked if a wildlife officer could just take out the number the city decided, and Brooks said, “We don’t have to open it to the public.” She said she did not know if parks/wildlife had people willing to do that, however.
City Planner Dan Vaughn said he knows of a professional hunter in Utah who contracts with the division of wildlife to do this type of thing. He charges $50 per deer, and the deer meat is donated to food banks.
Brooks said that would be more efficient. Hensley said she would prefer that.
Councilor Kristina Daniel said deer are eating people’s gardens and terrorizing dogs. “I don’t think we have an option not do something,” she said.
She said the city needs to do something before someone gets really hurt.
Mayor Ty Coleman said, “We have to do our due diligence and explore avenues to make sure the public is safe … I think the consensus is we have to do something.”