Sturgis Police use deer harvest to prevent traffic accidents and give back

The City of Sturgis continues this unique technique with goal of increasing public safety and providing meat to those in need during the winter.

STURGIS, S.D. — Wild animals don’t always stick to nature, especially if they’re finding food in the city. Deer pose a particular threat in towns like Sturgis, where vehicle crashes involving deer are common and dangerous.

Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater answers a few questions about the city’s deer harvest program, designed to help alleviate overpopulation.

Sturgis Police DepartmentWhat is the deer harvest?

This is the third year that the Sturgis Police Department has participated in the harvest.

“The focus is to help minimize the traffic accidents with the deer that we have inside the city limits, as well as minimize and limit some of the devastation that they do with getting into people’s yards, their trees and their gardens, and causing problems there,” Chief VanDewater explains.

The harvest goes from November 1 to the end of February, and deer may only be harvested by Sturgis Police Officers.

How do you determine the number of deer that may be harvested?

“Every year, the City of Sturgis does a deer study and we submit the results of that deer study to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks…we make a request for a select number of deer to remove from the city limits of Sturgis,” Chief VanDewater adds.

This year, the City of Sturgis was granted permission to remove 40 deer.

Where can deer be harvested?

Deer are only harvested within city limits and on city property. However, landowners may reach out to the Sturgis Police Department and grant officers permission to harvest a deer on their property.

“We don’t go anywhere without permission,” Chief VanDewater says. “So we focus on some of the city property that’s inside the city limits here. We also have some private citizens that have bigger lots that have reached out to us and asked us to come and help eradicate the deer from there. So we try to work with our citizens and find safe locations that we can safely shoot the deer.”

Where does the meat end up?

Deer are donated to citizens of Sturgis either as entire deer or as ground meat, with any leftovers going to the local food bank.

Unfortunately, Chief VanDewater explains, “This year, the application process – we had to shut it off in less than 24 hours because it was such a it was a popular thing. There was a lot of people from inside and outside the city limits of Sturgis that was requesting either hamburger from the meat from the deer or a whole deer, so it was a very, very positive response from citizens this year.”

How does this help build community ties?

Whether landowners request assistance with removing deer from their land, or a family in need requests a meat donation, Chief VanDewater adds that this program helps build a positive bond between his officers and the citizens they serve.

“I believe it forms a very positive relationship with my officers and the citizens of Sturgis because we’re interacting with them, helping them, especially if they have a deer problem, or let’s say they might be less fortunate and can’t afford some of the meat…so I think it’s a win-win for the citizens. They get to interact with us, of course, when they apply and then also when they’re picking up their meat or we deliver the the deer to them.”

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