Urban Deer

An urban deer is pictured in a trap. 

Provo and two other Utah cities will no longer relocate the deer who spend most of their time within city boundaries.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced Thursday it will be ending an option cities had to capture deer within city limits, and relocate them to range land elsewhere. Provo, Herriman and Bountiful are the only three cities who have relocated deer, though Alpine and Draper are also signed up to do so, said Mike Wardle, wildlife coordinator for the DWR. The lethal urban deer program, in which 17 Utah cities are enrolled, will continue on as normal.

Provo started with the urban deer program in 2017. During that time, the city has relocated 89 deer, mostly to Millard and Duschesne counties. Provo has lethally harvested 72 since the programs started, not including last winter’s numbers, which are not yet available, Wardle said.

The reasons for ending the relocation part of the urban deer program, according to a DWR news release, have to do with spreading diseases and poor survival rates for relocated deer.

For instance, chronic wasting disease, a fatal, contagious neurological disease that can affect deer, elk and moose, has been spreading in populations across the country. While the prevalence rate of the disease in Utah is low compared to neighboring states, the release said, the DWR does not want to impact other deer populations by possibly spreading the disease to new areas.

Research also showed that the translocation efforts did not significantly change public feedback about conflicts with urban deer, the release said.

When relocated deer were tracked, it was found they have about a 50 percent survival rate, compared with an 85 percent survival rate of relocated mule deer across the Western United States.

Wardle said the deer, who have spent their lives in a city, are not always used to dealing with predators like mountain lions, and have a high rate of being killed by predators. Relocated deer also have a tendency to travel far from the place they were relocated, putting them at higher risk for other factors such as being hunted or hit by a car.

Provo is currently allowed to lethally harvest up to 100 urban deer per year, Wardle said, though it’s possible that number could be adjusted now that no deer will be relocated.

“Rather than having a large portion of the animals die after relocation, lethally removing them allows the meat to be utilized to help people in need,” the release said. Those interested in receiving meat from the lethal urban deer programs can contact their city hall if their city participates in the program. The cities who are currently enrolled in the lethal urban deer program include:

  • Alpine
  • American Fork
  • Highland
  • Mapleton
  • Provo
  • Springville
  • Centerville
  • Draper
  • Fruit Heights
  • Herriman
  • Holladay
  • Hyde Park
  • Mendon City
  • Newton
  • North Logan
  • North Ogden
  • North Salt Lake

The urban deer program was started in 2014 to help cities combat deer as both nuisances and public safety hazards. Wardle emphasized that the urban deer removal program will continue.

“We’ll still be working towards controlling the urban deer populations and handling the conflicts,” Wardle said. “We’re just changing the way we do it in some areas.”

Katie England covers local government, the environment and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

Katie England covers politics, county government and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

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