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River Hills reluctantly agrees to first bowhunting season

Move could help reduce village's deer population, management costs

Jan. 23, 2014

River Hills — Village officials will begrudgingly codify the limited restrictions of recent state legislation that will allow bowhunters within village limits for the first time.

State Assembly Bill 8, signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker in December, stops local governments from prohibitting bowhunting within municipal limits. The change means River Hills, which had previously banned bowhunting, can't stop hunters from hunting on public or private land, assuming they get permission from private property owners or own the land themselves.

The bill comes with one caveat: hunters can't set up within 100 yards of a building unless the owner of the building gives permission. Village Attorney Bill Dineen will draft an ordinance to codify the 100-yard restriction. The Village Board will consider the ordinance, the only real restriction available under the new law, at a coming meeting.

"Right now, if we do nothing, the village would not be able to prohibit anyone from hunting up to five feet from a house, unless we say they can't do it within 100 yards," Dineen said.

Trustee Michael White spotted the silver lining of the lifted restriction, that bowhunters in the village will help manage the deer population and could someday decrease the amount the village spends each year to thin the herd.

Village Manager Chris Lear said River Hills spends about $25,000 annually on deer trapping and herd management. About $20,000 of that is allotted to the Department of Public Works for staff time while about $5,000 goes toward maintenance of deer traps and the annual helicopter flyover deer count.

The trapping program, instituted in 1986-87 season, has steadily reduced the estimate of River Hills' deer population from a high of 323 in 1988, to a low of 74 in 2009, to 107 in 2014. The deer-sized traps, set out in the fall, are open-ended plywood contraptions which snap shut when deer venture in to eat bait. Public works employees remove trapped deer to a processor who donates the venison to a food pantry.

Between late-October and a Jan. 6 flyover count, 37 deer were trapped, according to a report from DPW Director Kurt Fredrickson. Since the count in January 2013, seven deer were killed by drivers within the village.

Lear said that any effects on the trapping program won't be known until after future deer seasons. If the program would be stopped entirely the savings would be about $5,000 since the DPW staff would be assigned other tasks, he said.

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