The Provo Municipal Council has the arduous task of deciding whether to keep, maintain or end the city’s Urban Deer Control Program.
The topic has been cause for heated discussions at times over the past five years. For many residents urban deer overrun their yards and gardens which is costly and they also cause several traffic accidents.
On the other hand, other residents have been protective of the majestic animals and feel humans have encroached on their space.
For the past four years, the city has had a dual program of lethal and non-lethal methods of getting rid of the urban deer population.
In 2019, the council voted on a new plan that eliminates the trap-and-relocate option.
Instead, the council chose the fully lethal program, either through professional archers or by a trap-and-euthanize method.
In early 2019 the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources ended transporting trapped deer to new locations because of concerns of spreading Chronic Wasting Disease commonly found in deer, elk, moose and other animals. Chronic Wasting Disease is a contagious disease that causes a degeneration of the brains of the infected animal.
According to the most accurate counts in 2016 when the city started the program, there were about 565 urban deer that resided along the higher neighborhoods of Provo, as well as along the foothills in south Provo going toward Springville.
Now, some members of the council are wondering if the numbers show a need for the program.
“Looking at the numbers, I’m not persuaded it has made a difference,” said George Handley, council chairman. “I don’t see any significant reduction in traffic accidents.”
The numbers over the past four years show the following:
- In 2016, 120 calls were received, with 66 killed in traffic.
- In 2017, 136 calls were received, with 90 killed in traffic.
- In 2018, 65 calls were received, with 56 killed in traffic.
- In 2019, 87 calls were made, with 67 killed in traffic.
Numbers are calculated between March 1 and Sept. 30 when does are birthing an average of two fawns.
The deer harvesting season is from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
In 2019, the council’s focus on the program was for the safety of individuals traveling on roads through Provo.
Camille Williams, assistant city attorney over the project, also noted that COVID-19 made it hard to have a handle on the numbers.
“2020 is not a good measuring year. There were 10,000 fewer vehicle trips on University Avenue,” Williams said.
Williams noted the students were gone and people also were working from home and doing less traveling. She also noted the weather and the COVID-19 economy also plays into the number factoring.
“The council needs at least a maintenance program,” Williams said. “If we take a year off and the numbers go up, it sets us back.”
It is recommended that two sites be set up for professional archers to work from. They anticipate taking up to 35 deer. That cost to the city would be $7,625.
In the past, the mayor’s office and the council have split the costs with the police department paying the invoice.
Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said that since there is no set budget for the project that it be rolled into the animal control budget and then the council wouldn’t have to meet every year on the subject.
Handley said before moving forward he would like to see last year’s full report. He also indicated the money wasn’t the problem. He just thinks the city could stop for a while.
Councilman David Sewell noted that when the Urban Deer Project first came up it was a hot topic.
“Complaints have decreased and the groups of deer have decreased,” Sewell said.
Councilman Bill Fillmore said that it looks like it’s doing some good and is not too costly.
The council did not make a decision on the issue but anticipates coming back in the near future for a decision if they will proceed or not with the project.