Deer reduction program benefits all

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Deer are beautiful wildland creatures, but they can become hazards when they move into a city. Rapid City has a deer reduction program to improve safety for city residents, but there’s more to the program than just killing deer.

Nature lovers enjoy watching deer, where ever they are, and some get upset when they find out that Rapid City has a program to kill a certain number of deer in the city every year.

Because of last year’s drought, more deer have come down from the Black Hills into the city looking for food and water. But, increased numbers of deer mean safety and property hazards for city residents.

“What we see obviously is the automobile accidents,” said Scott Anderson, manager of the Rapid City Parks Division. “Also, with homeowners, the deer like to rub on their trees, eat their shrubs, so they’ll cause landscape damage that way.”

Deer cause hundreds of car accidents and do an estimated $250,000 in property damage in Rapid City each year. So the Rapid City Parks Division, working with South Dakota’s Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, every October does a survey of the number of deer in the city, and recommend a number of deer to be harvested to control the population. Marksmen use small-caliber rifles to accomplish the task. For those concerned about using guns in the city, though, the program ensures that the harvest is done safely, with minimal risk to the public.

“We make sure we have competent guys that are doing the shooting,” said Anderson. “We make sure there’s a good backdrop, a hillside, or make sure they’re shooting down. The main priority in what we do is we try to be safe.”

Urban deer populations are also hazardous to the deer themselves. When there are too many deer in a confined area, chronic wasting disease can spread through the herd. Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disease that causes suffering and death. The deer reduction program ensures that the public can enjoy the sight of healthy deer.

“Having a manageable herd in town, I think is good,” said Anderson. “If you have a lower population, [the deer] are not so close together. There’s more space between them.”

The consequences of not doing the deer reduction harvest can also be vast, as occurred a little over 15 years ago when the population of deer in the city soared, and both humans and deer suffered.

“I think there was two years where [the city] opted not to do the deer harvest, and the numbers skyrocketed,” said Anderson. “So, I think it does make a difference, and for the amount that we harvest, it makes the population manageable.”

And the deer that are harvested do not go to waste. After harvesting, the deer are sent to a processor, where the meat is inspected and tested, and healthy deer meat is donated to Feeding South Dakota, to fight hunger in local communities. Financial support for the processing is provided by the Sportsmen Against Hunger, and the Black Hills Sportsmen.

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