Deer sharpshooting operation ends in Mt. Lebanon
It wasn’t long before the sharpshooters that entered Mt. Lebanon were leaving it already.
After seven days of sharpshooting efforts by White Buffalo Inc. – resulting in the removal of 55 deer – Mt. Lebanon officials followed the advice of the company’s founder and president, Tony DeNicola, to stop the high-powered rifle stage well before the anticipated March 31 end date.
According to municipal manager Keith McGill, it was financially prudent after spending $44,868 to pay for the time and materials used in the short hunt that ran from Feb. 16 to 22.
“I don’t think anybody was expecting 70 degree weather in February,” municipal manager Keith McGill said. “When it gets that warm the deer are less attracted to the bait because they don’t need to expend as much energy. There is also a whole lot more human activity.”
The stretch of spring-like temperatures, which made baiting areas ineffective and abbreviated the sharpshooting phase, ended a 2016-17 deer culling program that was underwhelming. After culling 219 deer in last year’s program – 104 through the archery hunt and 115 by sharpshooting – the numbers this year went in opposite directions.
Archery hunting produced a removal of only 36 from public and private properties for $9,000.
The goal of the commission was to ultimately reduce the deer-vehicular collisions by 50 percent over the course of five years only grew further away with 122 accidents reported to Mt. Lebanon police. Those crashes in 2016 increased in every month other than two – October and December – in 2015 when only 73 collisions were reported.
“The number one thing has always been safety,” McGill said. “Residents have requested an aerial survey but deer don’t recognize borders and don’t stay in one place. Accessibility is the question.”
While accessibility to the community has been diminished because of the lethal methods required from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, density of deer remains high in certain parts of the community according to DeNicola. That problem likely won’t be solved unless the state allows for sterilization methods so those areas can be reached.
“We can use the data to present that argument to the state,” McGill said about the worrisome numbers of the deer program in 2016. “The game commission’s first method of deer management is hunting, until there is a philosophical shift that won’t change.”
Another viewpoint that could remain consistent is that of the majority of the commission on the deer problem according to McGill, who said he thinks there is still the support to continue the program.
“We kind of expected to see the drop off for archery because once you remove deer from the limited number of properties we have you are going to see less activity,” McGill said.
Discussions on whether to further invest in the deer-management program will approximately commence around June.