PITTSBURGH — Don't expect an army of camouflaged hunters to cut through your backyard during a limited archery deer hunt planned for two city parks. Pittsburgh's first citywide deer management plan attempts to reduce unwanted nuisance deer while keeping unwanted hunters off private properties.
On Aug. 30, the city abruptly announced a multi-tiered deer management program intended to curb the rapid population growth of Pittsburgh's deer.
On Tuesday, council authorized controlled archery hunts in city parks with the specific permission of the public safety director, and gave the city authority to enter a financial arrangement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture concerning deer management.
The legislation was rushed through council. Pittsburgh deer-vehicle collision statistics and cases of deer-vectored medical conditions including Lyme disease were not released. The viability of birth control drugs and other nonlethal means of population control were not discussed at length, and the only public education promoted was a page on the city's website.
The hunt will occur in Frick and Riverview parks, each found to be severely overpopulated with deer. The parks will be closed while hunting is underway. The hunt could occur as soon as Sept. 16, the opening day of an early archery deer season in areas surrounding Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The statewide archery deer season begins Sept. 30. It is not clear if Pittsburgh's controlled archery hunt will be a one-time event or continue through the 2023-2024 archery seasons, which end Jan. 27.
The controlled hunt is the first part of a broader plan. Hunt rules, an application for volunteer archers and a project overview were posted on the city's website.
Phase 2 calls for the hiring of USDA sharpshooters to conduct a rifle cull. The duration of the cull is unknown, but it is expected to cost the city more than $10,000. On Tuesday a Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman said Pittsburgh had not yet submitted an application for the special hunt permit required to cull deer outside of established hunting seasons using firearms that are not approved for hunting.
At the August meeting, several council members said their constituents have complained that nuisance deer eat their gardens, drop scat in their yards and may spread ticks and disease. Council was recently informed that a USDA study estimated there were 51 deer per square mile in Pittsburgh city parks. The same study said no more than 10 deer per square mile can be supported by available habitat.
For years, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has described foliage being stripped to the deer browse line. Increasingly, deer are turning to abundant all-season backyard smorgasbords creating biological conditions in which well-nourished does are more likely to deliver three fawns, the maximum carrying capacity. Half of the fawns are female, each reaches sexual maturity in one year and nearly all does are impregnated every year. In urban areas, whitetail deer double in population every 2 1/2 years and density grows exponentially.
"We feel some urgency to move on this because time's not really marching on our side," said Lisa Frank, the city's chief operating and administrative officer. She spoke of a rapidly approaching deer "tipping point" from which Pittsburgh will not "be able to recover" if responsible habitat stewardship is not applied soon.
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