Letter to the editor: Iowa City should stop hiring sharpshooters to thin out the deer population

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A white-tailed deer. — photo by Jill Rogan via Flickr

By Florence Boos

I’d like to reach out to any who oppose Iowa City’s brutal and shortsighted plan for killing deer this coming fall, who might be willing to attend Iowa City’s Aug. 14 open hearing on the topic, and/or to send their opinions on this topic to the city (to Here is a copy of a letter which I’ve sent:

Dear Officer Frank:

I would like to state my opposition to hiring White Buffalo to kill deer this year.

  1. I think in the long run such programs are a scam. They cost the taxpayers a great deal, and after lessening the deer population, the increase of food per remaining deer is greater and the population grows back more rapidly. Quite a bit of expense has been incurred for no permanent result.
  2. If we study the success at other places (not as claimed by White Buffalo, but objectively) most of these programs have been suspended after a few years for the reasons stated above.
  3. There are two problems related to deer — plants and road crossings. I think anyone with a garden — such as me — can adapt by placing netting around growing trees, and selecting plants which the deer tend not to eat. It seems overkill to slaughter these quite lovely and non-violent creatures over ownership of a few plants. People are different, but I enjoy seeing deer in my yard or along the street. It’s one of the reasons not to live in a large urban area.
  4. Re: road crossings; deer seem to run into the road during hunting season, so it’s a seasonal issue. It seems counterproductive to encourage a high population of deer for hunting, then kill them because when they are frightened they run across the road. It might help to shorten the hunting season and put up warning signs. I don’t see why anyone who isn’t going above the speed limit and watches carefully need be worried about major accidents with deer on rural roads, and they mostly avoid the major highways.
  5. Older deer teach their young how to cross roads and avoid humans. If you kill off all the mature females who do the teaching, then the young, inexperienced ones will cause more difficulties. It seems ill-advised to prevent the deer from learning what we want them to learn, how to avoid conflict with humans.

Thanks for considering our input. I hope we will choose not to hire this sharpshooting firm in 2018-2019.

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  1. this probably has to be the funniest damn thing i have ever read!!! what planet do you live on lady?? it takes a male and a female deer to make more deer. less deer less baby deer. not because of food. The mother deer teach their baby deer to cross the road?? lol lol humans haven’t even mastered this yet…. they just wander wherever they want to and keep growing in population because they have no natural predictors beside the automobile. i’m sure there are enough bow/arrow hunters that would do this for free too. they would just need to apply for a special permit, which i thought was in the talks at one time. i would do it for free. these deer are a nuisance. kind of like a large mouse..

  2. My thoughts…apparently you’ve never hit one with your car–or had the deer hit your car maybe is a better way to say it. A lot of $$ spent to fix the car and sometimes is not only fatal to the deer but the driver! They are like hitting a brick wall. Thinning them out is a great idea. Overpopulation tends to breed illness, disease and starvation.

  3. Hi Florence,

    I appreciate hearing your thoughtful perspective on this issue. I would like to say, first off, that I agree with your argument that hiring sharpshooters to control the deer population is an inefficient use of taxpayer money that will probably be ineffective in the long-term. As a resident of Cedar Rapids I too really appreciate seeing the little critters around- I feel their presence adds a lot of charm to urban and suburban landscapes.

    That said, I would like to comment on your observation that deer seem to cross roads more during hunting season. I will disclaim that I do not have the data or expertise to comment on whether or not that is true but, supposing that it is, I think it is unlikely that hunting activities are the primary drivers. Certainly traipsing and shooting by hunters scares deer, but some of the hunting season also coincides with the mating season of deer. During mating season it is very typical for deer to roam more in search of mates. I suspect that this has as much if not more to do with the increase in deer movement than does hunting. I agree that putting up more warning signs could be helpful, but I think that it would be alienating (and perhaps counterproductive) to shorten the hunting season. I hardly need to state that there’s a very devoted and hunting tradition in this part of our wonderful state :)

    I know that there aren’t really any easy answers that are going to make everybody happy, but I support your effort and applaud your activism regardless. Best of luck with your efforts!

  4. And to previous comments…

    Florence is not wrong in saying that killing the deer will spark an increase in reproduction. This is basically the story of the coyote’s expansion across the continent in the face of epically farcical and incredibly expensive extermination campaigns carried out by the government over the last century (shout out to Dan Flores). To suppose that spending taxpayer money to thin the population would be a one-time fix is just silly. I think incentivized hunting by people who want to do it and who will use the meat is a much better idea, and making natural bridges or “wildlife corridors” near road sections known as problem areas for collisions makes a lot more sense to me than does contracting expensive sharp-shooters to come put a band-aid on the situation. Just my two cents.

  5. I live on Foster Rd, and have fenced in my entire yard. The height of the fence ranges from 4′ to 10′ I have only planted deer resistant plants in and around my yard. I only plant vegetables that deer are known to not like. I take down the two bird feeders every night and hang them back up each morning. This all works well and good until later in the day, when the wild berries are gone and most of the spring/summer plants have run their course. Then HUNGER kicks in. One of my neighbors continually puts out food for the deer, despite pleading from all of the other neighbors. The real problem as i see it is over development of land. Foster Rd dead ended at the Elks Club as late as 1999, now it leads into the huge Peninsula project. If you ride the bike trail north off Foster Rd you can see Coralville just over the water. Soon there will be a major development north of Foster and South of Interstate 80. About the only grazing/nesting area left is the Elks Club forest next to their course. Whenever i get up in the morning and walk around my yard, and notice something has been chewed on, the initial reaction is “damn!” But then I think, the deer and wildlife were here long before I was. Where are they supposed to go? Where are they suppose to graze and raise their young? Open land is fast disappearing with urban sprawl (another reason for infill dense development, another topic for another time.) Yes deer can be a nuisance, but can’t we all be at times? Just go to any family reunion…

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