ELY – A proposal to initiate a deer-hunting season within the city limits here missed the mark with Ely City Council members Tuesday night, who largely dismissed the request to consider …
ELY – A proposal to initiate a deer-hunting season within the city limits here missed the mark with Ely City Council members Tuesday night, who largely dismissed the request to consider reducing the deer population by allowing a limited bow hunting season.
City resident Sarah Malick-Wahls appeared before the council to describe her proposal. She presented as many as 12 letters of support from like-minded city residents. “I am interested in the council entertaining the idea of managing deer at a lower sustainable level within the city limits,” Malick-Wahls said.
She cited several reasons for her concern.
Motorist safety: “There are a few areas within the city limits where I have personally witnessed a number of close calls due to the unusually high density in and around town,” she said, and noted areas just west of town on Highway 169, Pioneer Road northeast of Miner’s lake, and Savoy Road as a couple of areas of high deer density.
Garden pests: “The overabundance of deer within the city of Ely limits and their apparent fearlessness of humans has resulted in a large number of frustrated gardeners,” she said. “It is impossible to grow many flowers and vegetables in portions of this town without near-daily application of deer repellent during the growing season or tall fencing. I hear this problem from others.” She cited information from a local gardener who reported as many as 10 deer at a time in her garden. “She is trying to grow expensive tulip and flower gardens in anticipation of eventually developing a bed and breakfast at her home,” Malick-Wahls said.
Chronic wasting disease: “CWD is knocking on our door,” she said. “It was recently reported just 150 miles away in Crow Wing County.” High deer density is one of the ways this disease is spread. “One of the ways that we could get ahead of this issue is to manage our deer at lower levels so we don’t have such an extreme spread of this disease.”
Moose recovery: Moose are important to our region’s tourist economy as they are one of the top species visitors hope to see while visiting the Ely area, according to Malick-Wahls. “One of the factors contributing to their marked decline since 2006 is the parasites and disease spread by white-tailed deer, including brainworm and liver flukes,” she said. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, she added, has realigned northeast deer permit areas in order to manage deer at lower, stable densities to reduce disease and parasite transmission from deer to moose. “If deer densities are allowed to remain high in Ely, this may counter any positive impacts from managing the moose in our local area.”
Deer ticks: Lyme disease is spread by deer ticks and deer ticks are most frequently spread by deer and mice, she said. “While we may not have a reasonable method to control the number of mice that are cohabitating in our spaces and bringing deer ticks with them, we do have the ability to control the density of deer through a controlled archery hunt,” she said.
At least 24 other communities in Minnesota, including nearby municipalities like Tower, Cook, Aurora, Hoyt Lakes, Two Harbors and Side Lake conduct an annual special archery hunt season.
“They manage (the hunt) through the Arrowhead Bowhunters Association which uses their own proficiency testing so only deer hunters who are using equipment they have tested their accuracy and skill with on an annual basis are allowed to hunt,” Malick-Wahls said.
“The cities identify only certain areas where hunting is allowed,” she said, and suggested that areas around the Lucky Boy ponds, Old Airport Road, the U.S. Forest Service office, the city water treatment facility, and other places away from residences could be included in a special archery season here.
Ely Mayor Chuck Novak largely dismissed the proposal. “The reason we have a lot of deer here is that people are feeding them,” he said. “No one is helping the deer by feeding them. A lot of people feed them corn. The only time that corn is possibly beneficial is when the does are having fawns. Other than that, it is not healthy for them, and neither is bird seed.”
Novak also noted that some of the potential locations cited by Malick-Wahls are not within the city limits. “Other folks have mentioned Pioneer Road as a possible hunt area. Well, we have the Trezona Trail and people walking nearby, and people that live along Pioneer Road.”
Novak quoted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “I shot an arrow into the air and where it landed, I know not where,” to describe his concerns about the safety and liability issues involved in conducting bow hunting in a residential area.
“This is not high on my list to deal with,” Novak added. “If you talk to the DNR about what they want to do on wildlife management and see if there is an area within the city limits that could be applicable, I guess the council could take a look at it,” he said. He cited tax levy work and the legislative agenda as taking up most of his time right now.
According to council member Al Forsman, the city of Ely is surrounded by a DNR hunting zone (Section 118) where heavy hunting is not encouraged. “It is bucks-only around here or lottery only,” he said. “There are a lot of deer around, but you should request that the DNR step up to increase the number of permits or to divide the section.”
Council member Paul Kess also cited public safety and the density of private property in the city as just a few problems encountered with conducting a city-wide hunting season.
Council member Jerome Debeltz suggested that gardeners buy more deer repellent.
No action was taken on the proposal.