A recent Missouri Department of Conservation-managed bow hunt at the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Area, located in Kirkwood and abutting Sunset Hills, drew only eight hunters who collectively bagged just two deer over the three-day event.
The hunt conﬁrmed one local activist’s belief that organized deer harvesting — speciﬁcally the annual “urban” bow season in Sunset Hills — isn’t serving a viable purpose and should be discontinued.
“Predominantly unfavorable weather conditions, including heavy rain and wind, seemed to have an impact on the (Nov. 3-5) hunt,” said Dan Zarlenga of the Missouri Department of Conservation. “These numbers were lower than usual — one doe and one 10-point buck.”
Zarlenga said the goal of the managed hunt is to help balance deer populations that have grown beyond what Powder Valley’s 112-acre habitat can provide.
Shank estimates the deer population at Powder Valley is about ﬁve times what can comfortably exist there, given the area’s size and proximity to residences and roadways.
“While visitors enjoy seeing deer and the animals are an important part of the area’s wildlife population, excessive numbers cause negative impacts to other plants and animals,” Zarlenga said. “Overeating of wildﬂowers and other vegetation by deer reduces song bird numbers and insects like pollinators and butterﬂies that depend on these plants.”
Sandra Jo Ankney of Sunset Hills, who has for several years privately researched issues concerning St. Louis County’s urban deer population, acknowledges conservation department efforts to manage Powder Valley’s deer. Yet she suggests there is a disconnect between how Powder Valley is managed and the department’s encouragement of annual urban bow hunts within Sunset Hills.
“Before every annual managed hunt is conducted in Powder Valley, the Missouri Department of Conservation conscientiously conducts deer survey counts to establish a current deer population number,” Ankney said.
She said a considerable effort is made to be able to balance the remaining deer population with its habitat, after the hunt is over. But Ankney said “it is patently hypocritical” that in Sunset Hills the MDC does not promote the state’s meticulous deer-management program.
Ankney said the annual Sunset Hills urban bow hunt, begun in 2013, was based on “general, national statistics” that indicate deer increase in numbers in suburban areas if they are not killed. Ankney has regularly confronted the city, insisting that an official deer head count be performed. No survey has been taken since 2014, Ankney said.
In line with her research, Ankney has opined that the proliferation of deer in residential areas of the city in 2012 was a ﬂuke, prompted by a summer that broke historic heat records, and that the deer population has normalized. The ﬁrst city hunt saw 54 deer harvested, but annual hunter kills have dropped dramatically each subsequent year.
Each summer, Ankney has addressed the board and mayor as a private citizen, urging an end to the city hunt, but the consensus remains in favor of keeping it going. The city does not permit hunters to trespass on land where they do not have expressed permission to hunt and a number of safety regulations are in place.