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Memo_2022-2023 Urban Bow Hunt Program Date: July 28, 2022 To: City Council From: Rachel Kilburg, Assistant City Manager RE: 2022 – 2023 Bow Hunt Program Update Background The City’s 2022 – 2023 Deer Management Bow Hunt season will begin September 17, 2022 and end January 10, 2023. Applications will be accepted from August 8, 2022 through October 21, 2022. The bow hunt is part of the City’s Long-Term Deer Management Plan, which was approved by City Council, accepted by the state, and provides for professional sharpshooting in 2019 and an urban bow hunt in years 2020 – 2024.The upcoming season will be the third of four years of bow hunts, as outlined and approved in that Plan. The 2021 – 2022 Bow Hunt Program results were reported in an annual report provided to City Council in March 2022. Based upon the aerial deer survey and recommendations from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the City increased the quota from 75 to 200 deer, lengthened the application period by two months, and opened the bow hunt two weeks earlier. Five hunters applied and were approved. A total of four deer were harvested as a result of the hunt. The Deer Management Annual Report, bow hunt and aerial survey results, and Long-Term Deer Management Plan are available on the City website at www.icgov.org/deerprogram. Each year, the Iowa DNR conducts an aerial deer survey to collect estimated population counts in Iowa City. The results of the aerial deer survey conducted after the last bow hunt were concerning. The overall deer count increased from 239 in 2021 to 615 in 2022. Although this is a ‘moment in time’ count, complaints and anecdotes from the community back up this estimate. The 2022 population and density estimates are comparable to 2010 and 2018 when White Buffalo was recruited to conduct professional sharpshooting. Following the 2020 sharpshooting effort, it was estimated the City would need to cull approximately 25 deer per year to maintain population levels. A total of seven deer have been culled over the last two bow hunt seasons. If the 2022-2023 bow hunt program returns similar results, the City anticipates the deer density level will increase considerably in the coming year and the social tolerance will decline as well. Successful deer management depends heavily on an ability to maintain levels annually, over the long-term. August 3, 2022 Page 2 In preparation for the 2022-2023 urban bow hunt season, City staff again sought input from the DNR to discuss strategies for improving the effectiveness of the bow hunt program. City and DNR staff met in Iowa City in March 2022 to discuss challenges and opportunities for the hunt. Following this meeting, City and DNR staff planned to conduct joint data analysis to identify top areas of concern where the City could explore targeting specific property owners to participate in deer culling activities. Additionally, the City was provided contact information of urban bow hunt coordinators from Polk County, Pleasant Hill, and Des Moines to learn more about other cities’ successes and challenges. Staff followed up with these contacts in July 2022. Below is a summary of feedback collected from each of these entities who are in varying states of longevity and success in their programs: • Lack of public land or recruited private land to offer hunters is a deterrent to hunter participation. Suggested coordinating with interested property owners in target areas to connect them with approved hunters. • Continue offering buck incentive program and longer season incentives. • Demonstrate long-term commitment to bow hunt. • Promote hunt opportunity through local outdoorsman and sportsman groups. • No entity had found a non-lethal method that was effective enough to manage population. • Educate the public on hunter motives and training and safety and efficacy data from longstanding urban bow hunts around the state. • Maintenance of density level is key. Deer will re-populate exponentially if left unchecked. Social tolerance can disappear rapidly after rutting season, at which point a quick solution is not possible. The Long-Term Deer Management Plan also calls for annual listening session to collect feedback on the City’s deer management efforts. The City Manager’s Office and hunt coordinator held a listening session on July 25 at 5:30 p.m. at Emma J Harvat Hall. Nine members of the public, five City staff members, two DNR staff members, and two media outlets participated. Staff began the meeting with a brief review of the City’s deer management history and current Long Term Deer Management Plan, including the annual bow hunt program and non-lethal activities. This presentation was followed by public input and questions from participants. A summary of public comments is provided below: • Multiple residents from Manville Heights neighborhood expressed concerns about the growing deer population and the resulting challenges, including reports of erratic driving from people avoiding deer in the road, damage to landscaping and gardens, deer sleeping near housing structures, and concerns about the spread of ticks and Lyme Disease. • Comments in opposition to the bow hunt in general were shared, including one participant against any deer culling efforts and another expressing preference for sharpshooting over bow hunting. • Concerns were shared that the first two years of bow hunt have produced inadequate results and low interest from hunters and property owners. • A comment encouraged the City to utilize wildlife crossings (vegetated bridges) where deer/vehicle accidents are most prevalent. August 3, 2022 Page 3 • Comment thanking city for promotion of non-lethal strategies and suggesting additional. • Comment from near east-side resident (Green Mountain) that deer population is becoming a challenge and that some owners in the neighborhood have single-acre+ lots that could be used for hunting. • Comment from far east side (Scott to Taft) that deer population is not a significant challenge, but the educational/informational material has been helpful. Additionally, the DNR staff shared comments about the success of urban bow hunts in other Iowan communities and that it takes time to grow awareness, trust, and interest in the hunt. City staff encouraged participants to promote opportunities for both property owners and hunters to contact the City if they are interested in being involved in the hunt. Additionally, staff shared that planning for a new deer management plan (to replace the current 2020 – 2025 plan), will begin mid-2023 with additional input opportunities offered during that process. 2022-2023 Bow Hunt Program City Council granted the City Manager the authority to make minor changes to the urban bow hunt rules. For the upcoming bow hunt, changes made last year to the application period, quota, and hunt season dates will be maintained. Based upon discussions and feedback with Iowa DNR staff, other entities who manage an urban bow hunt program, and public input, two tweaks have been incorporated into the 2022-2023 Bow Hunt Program: • Private property owners may submit their interest and willingness to provide land for hunters. Additionally, the City will reach out to key property owners in target areas with the highest deer densities to inquire about interest in providing property for hunting. Hunters will maintain responsibility for coordinating with property owners and obtaining all required permissions, but the City will assist in facilitating connections between approved hunters and cooperative property owners. • The City will conduct outreach with local hunting, outdoorsman, and sportsman groups to promote the hunt opportunity. Based on previous discussions with City Council, staff has not pursued hunting in public parks or our cemetery. However, it is evident the City will need to increase deer harvest numbers significantly from the first two bow hunts in order to meet population control goals. If the City Council desires to re-examine hunting in public parks for the 2022-2023 season, such direction would need to be provided to staff in order for staff to present revised hunt rules for Council to consider adopting. cc: Lt. Zach Diersen (Hunt Coordinator) Assistant City Attorney Sue Dulek City Manager Geoff Fruin