Managing Oakdale’s deer population


file photo Oakdale employs a metro area bowhunting organziation to control its deer population when it gets too large. Hunts are planned in early November at varous sites in the city.

Deer can easily become overpopulated in the metro area, where natural predators no longer exist and hunting is limited or prohibited by local ordinance.

If deer populations in the metro area are not managed, they can grow beyond their carrying capacities, overeat native and ornamental plants and likely increase the number of car-deer collisions. That's according to Scott Noland, supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forest Lake area wildlife staff, which oversees management, habitat and oversight work in Anoka, Washington, Ramsey and Hennepin counties.

Oakdale is one suburban city that has managed its deer population since 2005, and it does so with help from the Metro Bowhunters Resource Base during the regular deer hunting season each fall.

How the hunt works

Brian Bachmeier, Oakdale's city engineer and public works director, said that Nov. 2 through 4 and Nov. 9 through 11, the bowhunters will be hunting on several pre-designated sites within the city, made up of both public and private land. The city-owned sites include a property east of Highway 120 across from Larpenteur Avenue, the Public Works shop area east and west of Hadley Avenue, as well as portions of Eberle, Goodwin, Furlong and Northdale parks.

"We receive complaints from residents every year regarding the damage deer do to landscaping," Bachmeier said. "Since property owners are prohibited from hunting within city limits, the city has some role in controlling the deer population. We have seen a reduction in the number of complaints and vehicle/deer accidents since initiating the [hunting] program."

Dan Christensen, president of the bowhunters group, said the sole purpose of the nonprofit organization is to help governmental entities, like Oakdale, with deer management in areas where other deer control methods are not available.

He added that cities are not charged for the service, and that volunteer hunters pay a $20 fee, which helps cover the organization's administrative costs.

"The only billing expenses for the city are some minor costs for signage and then maybe putting up a barrier or two, [which] depends on whether or not they want to close the particular areas for hunting or not," Christensen said. "For the most part, most of the hunts do not require that the parks or whatever areas are closed to the public. They can continue to use them as they always do."

 

Safety for hunters 

and residents

Both Bachmeier and Christensen noted that residents do not need to do anything differently when using city parks this fall.

"The MBRB membership requires sharp-shooter status from the DNR and limits shot lengths," Bachmeier said. "We have 18 rules which they must abide by to participate in the hunt, including hunting from elevated stands and checking in/out of all hunt areas with the hunt coordinator. We limit the locations, dates and times that the harvest can be conducted. The balance of the rules generally address hunter safety and communications."

Christensen said that in addition to passing a proficiency exam and attending an orientation every year, the volunteer hunters are also required to follow the organization's set rules and protocols that cover a variety of situations and are more stringent than the rules recreational hunters are required to follow. The bowhunters group's rules include not hunting in the rain and covering a harvested deer during removal. He added that there is also a coordinator on each hunting site at all times.

Christensen also said there is no need for residents to wear orange when they use city parks.

"We're only using archery equipment and basically we require that all of our hunters take shots at deer that are 20 yards or less ... such a close proximity that there's never a chance for a mistake," he said. "We've been doing this for over 20 years now and we've never had one single incident involving [the public]."

 

Managing deer populations

Norland said each city can set its own deer population goals.

"It's typically one or a combination of indexes that can be measured and evaluated, i.e. deer-per-square-mile range, reduc[ing] car-deer collisions by a percentage amount, or reduc[ing] citizen complaints by a certain level" said the DNR supervisor. "Each index can be tracked and when the numbers get above the goal level, the city may elect to actively manage the population within their jurisdiction."

Bachmeier said Oakdale doesn't determine how many deer should be harvested. Christensen said cities typically don't cap the number of deer that can be harvested from an area, though he said the bowhunters don't try to wipe out an entire deer population, unless specifically asked to do so.

"In most cases when agencies come to us, it's because they are having some type of a deer problem — in other words they have more deer in the environment than they want to see, in which case they want us to essentially harvest as many as we can," Christensen said. "There are times that we've been called in to specific controlled areas where cities do not want any deer, but that's typically in a very controlled thing, like maybe around a power unit or a water unit or something like that."

He added there are times when cities decide their deer populations are at a healthy point and no longer need a hunt, something that happened in Little Canada this year.

 

Becoming a 

volunteer hunter

Christensen said those interested in becoming members of the bowhunter group should take the time to read over the resources on the organization's website, www.mbrb.org, before the new registration period opens April 1.

"We don't have full-time members," he said. "That is one of the ways we are different from most other [hunting] organizations. We basically have hunters who sign up with us each year and they are basically considered volunteer hunters."

Those interested in hunting do need to sign up each year and use their preference points to select the hunts they want to be drawn for. Christensen said there's no preference given to residents of any given community.

Members get a point for each year they enroll, and when they are drawn for one of their preferred hunts, those points will be removed. Christensen said the system seems to work well because someone who wasn't drawn for hunts held in a certain year will have more points to use the following year, making it very likely they will be able to attend one of their preferred hunts.

Drawings for all hunts are held Aug. 15 each year, so the volunteers for Oakdale's 2018 hunts have already been determined.

Said Christensen, "We have been successfully doing this for over 20 years now in various parts of the cities. All together in the metro area we have run more than 30 hunts [each year], and so basically as we say, it's safe, effective, and low cost for the cities as a way to help control the deer populations."

 

–Aundrea Kinney can be reached at roseville@lillienews.com.

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