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Friday, January 17, 2014

Fort Thomas' Deer Legislation Ordinance Models for Fort Mitchell

The Enquirer ran an article today which detailed one Fort Mitchell City Councilman's desire to enact a deer hunting related ordinance similar to the one Fort Thomas has in place. Below is the article from the Enquirer. 
As residents who have lived with this ordinance over the last few years, what would you tell the Fort Mitchell City Council and its residents to expect? 

Less than two years after Fort Mitchell City Council overturned a controversial ban on shooting bows and arrows in this residential suburb, a councilman wants to allow archers to hunt deer with certain restrictions.
In proposing the ordinance, Councilman Dan Rice says his main goal is to reduce deer-vehicle collisions. Regulations to reduce an overabundance of deer also could limit damage to Fort Mitchell property owners’ gardens and landscaping, he said.
“From a safety standpoint, my biggest concern would be someone hitting a deer with their car,” said Rice, who says he has spotted as many as 20 deer on his residential street. “Deer don’t have a natural enemy in the middle of a neighborhood. I’m just worried that someone’s going to get hurt.”
According to Kentucky State Police, the animals that claim the largest number of lives in the U.S. are deer. Nearly half of all deer-related collisions take place October through December because of the mating season. Most happen in the early morning or early evening hours, and the average claim in a deer-auto collision is $3,000.
“While the percentage of deer collisions resulting in a fatality is relatively low in Kentucky as compared to the nation, it is extremely important to recognize this ever-present risk,” Kentucky State Police say on their website.
Modeled after similar legislation in Fort Thomas, Fort Mitchell’s proposed ordinance would allow archers 18 and older to hunt deer on at least three contiguous acres belonging to one or more property owners who’ve given their written permission. Archers would have to be at least 200 feet from any homes, apartments, businesses, streets, highways or parks, and could be no more than 35 yards from the deer they’re targeting.
Under the proposal, deer could be hunted only from sunrise through 10 a.m. Nov. 1-Dec. 15 or from Jan. 1 through the end of the Kentucky archery hunting season for deer as established by the state. This year, that season ends on Jan. 20.
The proposed ordinance also bans Fort Mitchell residents from feeding deer.
“If you feed deer, that’s encouraging them to stay,” said Tina Brunjes, the Frankfort-based program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. “So Step One is, ‘Let’s not lay out a buffet.’’’
Last week, Fort Mitchell City Council referred its proposed ordinance to limit its deer population to its safety committee for further study. That committee has not yet scheduled a meeting, but it’s expected to meet before council’s next regular meeting on Feb. 3.
Fort Mitchell Police Chief Jeff Eldridge said Fort Mitchell has had 37 deer-related accidents during the past 10 years. Of those, two resulted in injuries, and both of those were on Interstate 75, he said.
“Thirty-seven accidents may sound like a lot until you compare it to Fort Thomas,” Eldridge said.
According to Fort Thomas records, there were 169 deer-related accidents from Jan. 1, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2013. Those included both vehicles and bicycles that hit deer or had an accident when they swerved to avoid a deer and hit a utility pole.
In March 2006, after months of study, Fort Mitchell officials voted to include bows and arrows in that city’s ordinance prohibiting projectiles, The Enquirer reported. City officials took up the issue after someone’s pet was pierced with an arrow. The night of the vote, dozens of residents took part in a heated discussion that ultimately resulted in the first arrest of someone at a Fort Mitchell City Council meeting. An archer opposing the ban was charged with disrupting a meeting, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
 In June 2012, after much discussion, Fort Mitchell Council reversed its earlier decision, allowing the discharge of bows and arrows in that city for archers with shooting ranges in their yards.
 In late 2007, faced with increased deer-vehicle incidents, Fort Thomas became the first Kentucky city to adopt an urban deer management program that allows archers to hunt deer in that city with certain limitations, Brunjes said.
 “In Fort Thomas, there were residents who didn’t want to see a single deer harmed, there were those who thought deer were vermin and should be eradicated, and there were many folks who had opinions in between those two extremes,” Brunjes said. “Fort Thomas officials did a really good job of sticking to the facts and keeping emotion from preventing them from coming to a reasonable alternative.”
 The Fort Thomas ordinance withstood an early legal challenge that resulted in a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling that city officials could regulate the discharge of bows and arrows. That city’s archery program since has undergone several modifications.
 During its first year, the Fort Thomas ordinance triggered 17 complaints, only four of which were substantiated violations, city records show. The following year, there was one complaint, and since then, the city has received no complaints about its archery program.
“We do get people complaining that the deer eat their flowers or the fruit on their trees,” said Fort Thomas City Administrator Don Martin. “While we’re certainly sympathetic, that’s not why we have the program in place.”
 Martin said Fort Thomas officials have received no reports of safety issues involving the discharge of arrows. However, in the early years of the city’s archery program, he said a rutting buck gored a resident’s dog.
 In 2008, the first year used to track the effectiveness of Fort Thomas’s archery program, there were 19 reported deer-related vehicle accidents with two injuries, city records show. In 2009, that dropped to 14 deer-related accidents with no injuries to the vehicles’ occupants. In 2010, there were 13 deer-related vehicle accidents with no injuries. That jumped to 19 deer-related vehicle accidents in 2011 with no injuries and 20 deer-related vehicle accidents in 2012 with no injuries to occupants of vehicles.
Deer-related accidents in Fort Thomas may be up slightly in recent years, but Martin says those numbers likely would be much higher had the deer population’s numbers not been reduced through the city’s archery program.
 Meanwhile, Kenton Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders hunts with a firearm on a friend’s rural Owen County property, but also enjoys documenting trophy bucks and other wildlife with the help of a deer cam in the backyard of his Fort Mitchell home. Sanders’ mostly nocturnal photos of deer, coyotes, foxes, and other wildlife have been popular with dozens of Facebook friends.
 Sanders describes himself as an avid sportsman who supports hunting rights but he hasn’t taken a position on his city’s proposed ordinance to limit its deer population. Although he’s not concerned for his safety if archers would be allowed to hunt deer in Fort Mitchell, he doesn’t want to see an injured animal drop to the ground and die in front of a child.
 “I choose to do my hunting in rural areas,” Sanders said. “Although I don’t know that I support (Fort Mitchell’s proposed archery ordinance) or oppose it, I think there are places within the city where it might be done safely with little to no risk of traumatizing children. But as with many things in life, it would require using common sense.”

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