Burnsville (MN) council votes to use deer sharpshooters

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City moves quickly to halve deer herd.

BY TAMMY J. OSEID, St. Paul Pioneer Planet.

Burnsville will begin using sharpshooters to kill more than half of its deer herd as soon as possible, the Burnsville City Council decided Monday night on a 3-2 vote.
The council wants to remove 166 deer in two years by using food to lure deer to tree stands and having experts shoot them at an estimated cost of $250 a deer. Sharpshooters will begin in northern and eastern city parks this fall and early next year and will expand to southern and western Burnsville parks later next year and 2003. When about 146 deer are left, the city will use annual archery hunts to maintain that population.

"This is a difficult task. It's up to us to move this forward tonight," said Council Member Liz Workman, who made the motion. "We need this plan to move at a faster rate." The council has discussed donating the deer meat to food shelves and using other parts of the animals as well.

The council's plan moves more quickly than a phased-in deer hunt that city staff and the city's parks and natural resources commission recommended to prevent deer from destroying the environment and causing deer-car crashes.

Under that phased-in plan, expert archers would have hunted up to 10 deer in one park this fall. The city would then have conducted aerial deer counts before a fall 2002 hunt at four city parks. That would be repeated in 2003. In 2004, the city would reassess the deer population and decide whether further hunts and sharpshooting would be necessary.

"We believed it was a compromise," said parks and natural resources commissioner Paula O'Keefe.

The council had directed its staff and commission to consider nonfatal options after a deer-management plan failed in June when Council Member Deborah Moran left early.

But Burnsville resident Elaine Anderson, a vocal opponent of the deer hunt, said those nonviolent options were never considered seriously.

"Only when nonlethal alternatives are proven ineffective can you morally proceed to violence," Anderson said. "If you can't find a nonviolent solution, you haven't been looking or listening hard enough." Burnsville resident Paul Wood urged the council to approve the commission's plan, emphasizing the need for a hunt to prevent deer from further harming the environment.

Former Council Member Charlotte Shover, who worked on a Minnesota Valley deer task force in the early 1990s, told the council that some activists at that time found sharpshooting more humane than archery hunts.

The council also voted unanimously to ban residents from intentionally feeding deer at any time during the year.
 

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