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Morgantown realizes it has a deer problem

July 16, 2011
By Kenneth Cobb , The Inter-Mountain

It was in the fall of 1955 when I started learning how to hunt. At that time, the most popular game animal in the state was the squirrel. Today, the bushytail has taken the back seat in popularity to the white-tailed deer. Most of the people I know will openly admit that the white-tailed deer is a beautiful animal. Throughout the nation, white-tailed deer are appreciated and valued by large segments of society.

Now, this brings up the concern about deer damage that has been expressed by people of many occupations and professions. Farmers are complaining about damage to their crops. Insurance companies are complaining about deer-vehicle collisions nationwide, to name a few.

The fact is that when living conditions are ideal for deer, their populations have the potential for both rapid growth and expansion of their range. In 2010, 10 cities held urban deer archery hunts in West Virginia. Among them include Barboursville, Bridgeport, Charleston, Lewisburg, Weirton and Wheeling. Parkersburg has become the latest city in West Virginia to allow an urban deer hunt, and Buckhannon is considering it.

From a study conducted this spring, Morgantown is beginning to realize that it also has a deer problem. This recent study using thermal imaging revealed that more than 600 deer were living within or near the city limits. Morgantown City Manager Terrance Moore says the council is looking for ways to address the issue. Some people who could possibly be opposed to an urban archery deer hunt are questioning the accuracy of this count.

Last week, I was talking to West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Game Biologist Steven Rauch in District One. He seemed to think that the count was very accurate using this up-to-date technology.

The chairman of Morgantown's Urban Deer Management Committee, Dr. Dave Samuel, said the city's deer population and the situation it brings - Lyme disease, vehicle accidents and damaged gardens - will not go away, if nothing is done to address them. Morgantown's residents should agree with this.

When I was talking to Rauch, I asked if the large number of deer living within the 10-to12 square miles of Morgantown present a sanitation problem. Rauch did not seem to think so. Most of the animals are located around the airport and the university farms located with the city limits.

Moore says he has heard both positive and negative sentiments about having an urban deer hunt in Morgantown. A few days ago, I was talking to a good friend of mine who often visits Morgantown. He told me that it would not hurt the deer population if 300 animals were removed.

The WVDNR and cities have been working together for years with urban archery deer hunts. For the most part, there have been very little or no problems.

For several years, I have often heard people who do not hunt say, "why doesn't the DNR try to relocate the deer?" This idea is expensive and impractical with a low success rate. Remember when deer are put in a new area, they are totally lost. They don't know where the food is or where the danger zones are.

In 2010, Morgantown considered the possibility of having an urban deer hunt, but no ordinance was adopted. However, the DNR seems to think that having an urban hunt this fall would yield positive results.

In Friday's edition of The Inter-Mountain, I read that Buckhannon is also considering having an urban deer hunt. I have also heard of several reports of deer sightings on the Davis & Elkins Campus, Elkins Middle School area and Industrial Park. Friday morning I saw a large doe at the bottom of Wilson Hill. Maybe Elkins needs to consider an urban deer hunt before the deer become a problem.



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