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Urban Deer

A pair of young mule deer mill about in a lawn on Seventh Avenue in December 2015. 

The city of Helena is seeking landowners interested in having net traps placed on their property for the annual mule deer cull.

The city’s program to remove urban deer is entering its 10th year. During that time, the Helena Police Department has trapped 1,041 deer, dispatching them with a bolt gun and donating the meat to Helena Food Share.

“I believe it’s been successful,” said Helena Police Chief Troy McGee.

Helena began seeing an uptick in deer-related incidents in the mid-2000s, including motor vehicle crashes and aggressive or injured animals. After working through Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the city received permission to cull deer with a goal of 25 per square mile.

“The statistics indicate that the complaints and concerns have been decreasing steadily since the removal of deer began and now have generally leveled out,” McGee said. “I would add that in 2018 we received one aggressive deer complaint. That is the lowest number we have had in any year since we started tracking it.”

The deer cull went through an extensive public process a decade ago, with residents both for and against it. Suggestions including public hunting or birth control for deer were floated, but ultimately the city decided to proceed with its plan. Controversy surrounding the cull has largely waned in recent years.

Helena Food Share Executive Director Bruce Day says meat is one of the most difficult food items to supply due to cost. Wild game, whether from the city or the Hunters Against Hunger program, is welcome.

“The people we serve appreciate it as a source of food,” he said. “All of it gets used, all of it gets distributed to people, so it’s a really helpful thing for us.”

This year’s cull runs from Dec. 1 until March and calls for the removal of 175 to 225 deer. That number is determined in consultation with FWP, McGee said. Typically most deer-related calls come from Helena’s east side, he added.

The department owns 12 traps and would like to have 15 or 20 locations to place them.

“The more the better,” McGee said.

Those interested in having a trap on their property may contact Cpt. Curt Stinson by calling 406-447-8284 or 406-447-8479, or email at cstinson@helenamt.gov.

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Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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