Winter Wildlife

A mule deer buck hops over a fence in a snow-covered field at the base of Casper Mountain. Though some oppose the plan, the Rawlins Police Department is scheduled to start culling deer in November.

RAWLINS — The Rawlins Police Department is scheduled to start culling up to 25 deer from the local cervid population in November.

“Beginning on Nov. 1, the police department will be working in teams of two to hunt deer,” said Diana Espy, a spokesperson for the Rawlins Urban Deer Committee. “The culled deer will be loaded and taken to a storage facility, then field dressed.”

After testing negative for chronic wasting disease (CWD), the deer are slated to be processed into burger.

Until Oct. 15, Rawlins residents can enter a drawing to win a deer’s worth of processed meat by emailing the city at urbandeer@rawlins-wyoming.com or visiting the Rawlins Police Department.

Formed in January 2018, the committee gathered data for more than a year before presenting City Council with the cull solution to Rawlins’ growing deer populace.

“We have an estimated 250-300 total (deer) within city limits,” Espy said. “Because they mostly live out their lives in the city, there’s little natural mortality in the herd. Most of the mortality was determined to be caused by human interaction, disease or old age, which is fairly unnatural for a prey species.”

Wyoming Game and Fish reported vehicle collisions accounted for the majority of deer deaths in Rawlins with disease following as a close second, according to information provided to the council in spring.

“There’s quite a few Rawlins-sized cities that are having troubles with urban wildlife conflicts,” said Derek White, a Game and Fish game warden.

Before moving to Rawlins, White, a member of the Urban Deer Committee, said he interacted with a similar management plan in Sheridan.

Before the plan was implemented, Game and Fish conducted a population assessment, then issued the governing authority a Chapter 56 permit, allowing Rawlins to cull a set number of animals from the herd.

“A Chapter 56 is an internal Game and Fish permit governing the lethal take of wildlife,” White explained. “We issue this form of Chapter 56 to a lot of towns around the state, and people doing research where they might need to take an injured animal.”

The permits are reviewed by the local game warden, wildlife biologist and approved by the chief game warden in Cheyenne, White said.

“The main purpose of these permits is to prevent these urban wildlife conflict situations,” he explained. “That will be one of the ways we measure the success of this cull.”

Deer slain by vehicle collisions during the cull period, which is slated to run the entire month of November, will not be counted toward the cull total, he said.

Although the policies needed to cull the deer population are already in place, Rawlins residents are still divided about whether it’s needed.

Barbara Parsons and her husband built their house on the Uplift in the 1960s before the deer population exploded and became indifferent to human contact.

“I like to see the deer, but I like them to be wild,” Parsons said. “When we first built our house, we didn’t have a fence. I had a garden and had very little damage to my plants from the deer.”

Nowadays, she said deer decimate gardens, and one aggressive buck approached her when she was out walking her dog.

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“You should be able to walk in your own front yard without fear of something happening to you,” Parsons said.

Although she’s not personally been involved in an urban wildlife conflict, Parsons said several of her neighbors have, including one whose dog was stomped to death by a deer who jumped into the neighbor’s yard.

On the flip side, Carlie Stephens said residents should “live and let live,” rather than culling the deer.

“The way I think about it is those deer were here before any of us or any of our ancestors,” Stephens said. “I’ve heard about problems with the deer stomping pet dogs. Don’t have your dogs out around them — I think that’s a lot of the problem.”

As far as vehicle collisions, she said people should slow down if deer are a problem.

“It’s a lot like watching out for kids,” Stephens added.

Instead of a cull, Stephens said she would prefer the city engage in a relocation program.

“I don’t want them to die in any way,” she said. “I know if you just take them outside of town, they’ll just be back. I think they should take more time to look at this and find a better solution.”

RDP officers, hand-picked by RDP Chief Troy Palmer, will enforce the cull on city-owned land, Bureau of Land Management property and private property, White said.

Palmer declined a request for interview.

Officers will work in pairs at night using a bolt-action rifle to take the deer, focusing primarily on does.

“The goal is to reduce the reproductive capabilities of the herd,” White explained.

Once killed, the deer will be field dressed at a nearby facility to prevent innards from being left scattered about public property, Espy said.

“After Oct. 15, all the resident names submitted will be randomly drawn and put on a number distribution list,” she said.

“The drawing will only be available to Rawlins residents, because they are Rawlins’ urban deer.”

To enter the drawing, Espy said a resident must be willing to take the whole deer’s worth of meat. To avoid issues with people selecting only certain cuts, she said each animal will be processed entirely into burger.

After the cull, the committee will gather new data before deciding whether to propose an additional cull in 2020.

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