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‘Controlled hunts’ for deer to be held in county parks later this year

St. Louis County officials appear primed to take a more assertive approach in addressing the problem of deer overpopulation. However, it’s not quite open season yet.

Last month the County Council passed a bill sponsored by council members Tim Fitch [R-District 3] and Mark Harder [R-District 7] allowing the county to partner with the Missouri Department of Conservation for controlled bow hunts in its parks. Although the bill passed, County Executive Sam Page neither signed it nor vetoed it.

During the Jan. 7 council meeting, Page offered some brief remarks on the issue.  

“We all know that [deer] overpopulation is a problem in St Louis County,” Page said. “We also know that no legislation will work if it’s not implemented thoughtfully and strategically.”

At an event earlier in the day, Dan Zarlenga of the Missouri Department of Conversation [MDC] looked to alleviate any fears that residents could be inadvertently caught in the hunting crossfire.

“They would be done from elevated stands. No shooting across. Just down to the ground,” Zarlenga told reporters. “The limited range of a bow is typically 30 yards.”

While the bill gives a green light for the controlled hunts, the council will need to approve each proposed event before a single arrow will fly. While this will be a critical step, Harder said he doesn’t believe it should be an obstacle.

“That was the compromise we struck,” Harder said after the meeting. “In the case of West County, Councilman Fitch and I are lock and step on this. We need it. We will do it whether anyone else does or not.”

In addition to himself and Fitch, Harder added that he believed council member Ernie Trakas [R-District 6] also was ready to embrace controlled hunts for the county parks in his district.

Harder scoffed at the notion that election year jitters or partisan politics would play any part in the council granting approval of specific controlled hunts later this year.

“There’s not Republican or Democrat deer,” Harder said. “It’s about deer management.”

Harder also emphasized the action is “cost neutral” meaning there is no expense to the county or its taxpayers to have the state conduct the hunts.

Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin voiced his approval of the council moving to address the deer nuisance issue. His community is one of many that have discussed and considered several different measures to address the issue.

“I support the county’s decision,” Bowlin said. “It’s a reasonable approach to a situation with limited options and will work well with Wildwood’s efforts that are being put together by our Board of Public Safety.”

Harder and Zarlenga both said any potential controlled hunts in St. Louis County parks will not happen before the fall hunting season.

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