Birth control is one proposed solution to stemming a growing deer population that continutes to confound city officials in Des Peres.
Des Peres resident Steve Disch asked aldermen on Aug. 12 to consider sterilization as one of the options. Others include holding a managed hunt or hiring sharpshooters.
“One of the things that makes Des Peres unique from other cities is its balance with green space and residential areas,” Disch said. “It pains me to watch increased development along Des Peres Road. I hope we continue to maintain that balance.
Disch said a managed hunt in the area of Phantom Forest and Bittersweet Woods, a Missouri Conservation Area, is inappropriate, claiming that the green space had been donated for use by wildlife and a place people could go to enjoy nature.
While contraception is costly, he said it is the best solution.
“Most wildlife biologists say if you cull a deer herd it will return to its original size within 18 months,” he said. “You can set up a deer station and shoot them with a dart gun filled with contraceptives.”
Acting City Administrator Scott Schaefer gave a presentation on four methods of deer management.
The first, a feeding ban, is already in place as of March. Though it is illegal to feed deer in Des Peres, Schaefer said some people continue to do so.
The second offering was for a managed hunt to take place for two or three days during hunting season. The hunt would be at Phantom Forest and Bittersweet Woods, and would allow a limited number of hunters for a controlled harvest.
A third option is to allow for archery hunting during hunting season, subject to state conservation rules. Sites would be near Sugar Creek, St. Luke’s Hospital, Topping Lane, Phantom Forest and Greenbriar.
The fourth and final offering would bring in sharpshooters during the final days of hunting season, with a controlled harvest and mandatory pre-hunt orientation. The hunt would be in Phantom Forest and Bittersweet Woods.
“We targeted the areas west of I-270 where we are approaching over 50 deer per square mile, where it should be 20,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer said the city needed some “face time” with the Missouri Department of Conservation. The department doesn’t typically allow hunting in conservation areas.
“Sterilization is an option but the Missouri Department of Conservation said it’s the least effective,” Schaefer said. “It works immediately, but will wear off after 18 months.”
“Recently, there was a huge conference in Montana of wildlife managers where they said the PZP vaccine lasts for two years and possibly longer,” Disch said. “It reduced spawning rates up to 90 percent. It doesn’t last forever, but the technology is going much faster than the conservation department realizes.”
Mayor Mark Becker asked Schaefer to look into the PZP vaccine for sterilization.
“Let’s see what the conservation department thinks about sterilization,” he said. “We want this issue to be transparent and we want to make sure we have the answers.”
Schaefer added that the department had to get state legislative approval to name the conservation area, so to do a managed hunt on conservation land, “it would literally take an act of congress.”