Deer can provide interesting nature viewing opportunities to urban dwellers but these large mammals quickly lose their appeal when they pose traffic risks to drivers or feed on gardens, ornamental shrubs and other vegetation. In areas such as nature centers, urban parks or other public-use sites, deer can congregate in numbers that are problematic to the facility and the animals’ own health.
People can learn more about the challenges being posed by urban deer at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Springfield Conservation Nature Center program “Oh Deer! Managing Urban Deer Populations” from 7-8:30 p.m. on Nov. 28. This program is for ages 10-adult. Call 417-888-4237 to register.
In addition to discussing Springfield’s current urban deer situation, information will also be provided about the managed hunt that is going to be Dec. 9-11 at the Nature Center. Other topics to be covered will be Springfield’s bowhunting ordinance, and the managed hunts on City Utilities properties at Fellows Lake and Lake Springfield. People can register for this program by calling 417-888-4237.
“We don’t want to eliminate deer from the Nature Center because they are an important part of the ecosystem and we know people enjoy seeing them,” said Nature Center Manager Linda Chorice. “However, we also value the natural communities that are being harmed by too many deer and we want to ensure that deer populations are healthy. There has to be a balance.”
This is the second year a managed archery hunt will be held at the Nature Center. During last year’s inaugural hunt, six hunters harvested nine deer.
Five archery hunters have been selected through MDC’s managed hunt drawing process to participate this year. They will be required to hunt from elevated tree stands while maintaining a distance of at least 35 yards from adjacent residential areas. Hunters will be allowed to take three deer, only one of which may be antlered. Hunters must check in at least one antlerless deer before harvesting an antlered deer and must attend a pre-hunt orientation. During the three-day hunt, Nature Center trails will be closed to ensure a successful and safe hunt. The building will remain open for visitation on Dec. 9 (Saturday) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Other MDC Nature Centers have managed deer hunts, some of which have been going on for a number of years. MDC’s Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Kansas City has had a managed deer hunt since 2001. This is not MDC’s only managed hunt in the Springfield vicinity; managed archery hunts have taken place on City Utilities properties at Fellows Lake since 2009 and Lake Springfield since 2011.
The Dec. 9-11 managed hunt at the Nature Center is one component of a city-wide strategy to control Springfield’s urban deer population. It, along with Springfield City Council’s bowhunting ordinance passed in 2014 allowing archery deer hunting within city limits and the managed hunts at Lake Springfield and Fellows Lake, are part of a comprehensive plan to help keep deer numbers inside Springfield’s city limits at a level that’s safe for citizens and healthy for deer.
“From our standpoint, this managed archery hunt is not seen so much as a hunting opportunity, but rather a tool for Springfield’s urban deer management,” said MDC Urban Wildlife Biologist Ashley Schnake. “The goal is to decrease deer numbers to benefit all wildlife that call the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and surrounding areas home.”
The Springfield Conservation Nature Center is located at 4601 S. Nature Center Way. For more information about the Nature Center, go to mdc.mo.gov/springfield. Information about deer hunting in Missouri can be found at mdc.mo.gov.