ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - On Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council passed a bill that would open up the possibility of planned archery deer hunts in county parks. More people, more development, less green space, and city ordinances banning the discharge of firearms, all these factors can make it tough to keep expanding deer populations in check in populated areas.
Historically, deer populations would have been managed by natural predators, like wolves and mountain lions. With those gone from many urban areas, a potential option for controlling the population through managed hunting.
Councilmembers Tim Fitch and Mark Harder, who represent much of west St. Louis County, say deer overpopulation continues to be a growing problem, putting drivers at risk and causing damage to the landscape. Their proposal, which was passed Tuesday, would allow the Missouri Department of Conservation to hold approved archery hunts of deer at county parks.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has not said whether he will sign the measure.
Several members of the public spoke out against the bill, calling it potentially dangerous to humans. But Dan Zarlenga with the Missouri Department of Conservation says that these hunts are typically safer, as the range of a typical bow hunter is nowhere near that of a high-powered rifle. And, as a managed hunt, the conditions would be highly controlled.
"If bow hunting is allowed, I suspect they would follow the model used in state parks where they may close the park for the day during the bow hunt so there won’t be any danger of conflict with other users," Zarlenga said. "Or they may cordon off certain portions of the park if it is large enough for bow hunting to take place away from the other users."
Any sort of managed hunt would still require that the individual hunter has the proper licensing and permits.