City deer linked to Lyme disease
Mayor to appoint study committee
By Angie Landsverk
An hoc commmittee will study how the city of Waupaca should manage its urban deer population.
It will ultimately make a recommendation to the Waupaca Common Council.
The council voted to take that direction when it met on Oct. 4.
“I know it will prolong it,” Mayor Brian Smith said. “We’re getting into the cold weather. I think, ideally, we should have a plan before the next growing season.”
He will appoint the committee, which will include members of the common council and citizens.
Ald. Alan Kjelland agreed to chair the committee.
The mayor said council members and residents interested in serving on the ad hoc committee may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 715-258-4410.
Smith said this will allow the discussion to not only take place at the council level, but with citizens as well.
The council’s decision followed an informational meeting, held a week earlier, during which several city residents spoke in favor of the city taking steps to manage the number of deer living in Waupaca.
Kathy Bidwell lives on Shadow Lake Drive and said two does, two fawns and two bucks spend all day eating plants in her yard.
For years, she has applied a liquid repellent to the plants.
This year, Bidwell has gone through 15 gallons of the stuff.
She also has Lyme disease.
“It was the most devastating thing of my life,” Bidwell said.
Jed Wohlt, Waupaca County’s public health officer, said from 1990-2015, the number of reported cases of Lyme disease in Wisconsin experienced a steady, upward climb.
There were nine confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the city in 2015 and one confirmed case this year, he said.
Michelle Peterson lives on Lake Street and shakes her head each time she comes across a brochure about hiking.
Those brochures tell people to stay away from tall grasses and to instead stay on trails and mowed areas to avoid deer ticks.
Her front and back yard are mowed, and the presence of deer visiting their yard is evident.
“We’re hearing about more people who have Lyme disease,” Peterson said. “Deer are very cute. I love animals, but unfortunately, they carry this disease.”
Describing it as a “burgeoning health problem,” she said the city’s deer population needs to be addressed.
On the opposite end of Lake Street, Susan Reniewicki agrees.
Deer damage her garden, and she pulls ticks off her pets.
“I very much support the modified lethal means – a combination of hunting permits in the wetlands, some of the parks and then perhaps in the winter, hire a few sharpshooters,” she said.
A woman, who lives on South Main Street, said she has lived in Waupaca for about 15 years.
During those first years, she did not see deer.
“If I wanted deer in my yard, I would move the country,” she said. “I don’t think that should be expected in town.”
She, too, has sprayed a deer repellent on her plants and tried to change what she plants in the yard.
She also commented on the number of deer she sees running across the street, particularly near the cemetery and Shadow Lake.
“This morning, a big buck just about ran in front of us,” she said. “It’s very dangerous. One of these days, someone’s going to get hurt.”
During last month’s informational meeting, Jake Fries, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist, presented information about the different ways a municipality may address the issue and their levels of success.
There are already state regulations in place which allow people to hunt with bows and crossbows in the city limits during the regular bow season.
Wisconsin Act 71, which became effective in 2013, changed municipal authority to regulate bow hunting.
Hunting is not allowed within 100 yards of a private building, unless the owner gives the hunter permission, and hunters must shoot their arrows toward the ground.
A city may still prohibit hunting on property it owns.
Ross Borgwardt lives on South Main Street and took advantage of Act 71 last year.
He encouraged the city to use that as a method but also said to make sure “you have people who know how to hunt.”
Brian Hoelzel, Waupaca’s interim police chief, said a permit needs to be obtained from the police department in order to shoot a bow or crossbow in the city.
The cost of the permit is $10, he said.
Borgwardt said he has tagged two deer in the city – both were the result of deer/car collisions in his neighborhood.
Fries said Waupaca County has one of the highest deer populations in the state, so it comes as no surprise that the deer population is high in the city of Waupaca as well.
There are habitats in the city which allow deer to hide during the day. The green spaces and landscaping around homes are feeding sources for them during the night.
How many deer are acceptable in the city is a decision that needs to be discussed at the community level, he said.
“I don’t think zero is realistic,” Fries said. “Deer are a part of the community. It’s just deciding how many you can tolerate.”
He mentioned methods local residents already use to deter deer.
Fries, who lives in Dayton, said “good luck” finding deer-resistant landscaping, as he has not found plants that deer do not eat.
Repellents are not entirely effective, he said.
Fries also reminded those in attendance of the fact it is illegal to feed and bait deer in Waupaca County.
Hoelzel said the city has an ordinance that prohibits the feeding of deer.
“Over the years, there have been people issued municipal citations for feeding (deer),” he said.
Communities across the state manage their deer populations in various ways.
Some designate particular areas for bow hunting.
“What I know about Waupaca, is there is a significant hunting community in the area,” Fries said.
What is probably equally as common in Wisconsin, he said, is the hiring of sharpshooters at a cost of $100 to $200 per deer.
That is most often done during the winter and occurs at night.
A DNR permit is required, and the meat is typically donated to a local food processer and then to local food pantries, he said.
Fries said a long-term commitment is necessary.
“If efforts stop, deer populations respond quickly,” he said.
Waupaca’s mayor said, “I’m a hunter, and we drive deer. Is that something that works or doesn’t?” he asked.
“Like drive them out of the city?” Fries responded.
He said deer do not have a large home range. For does, it is typically one to two square miles.
While driving deer out of the city might get them out of their familiar home range, Fries suspects the deer would trickle back to where they were.
Smith also brought a concern related to bow hunting.
“When you bow hunt and you shoot and if you hit one, it will go down and run,” he said. “That’s part of hunting. Don’t think it will not. I’ve never seen a deer actually drop from hitting it with a bow.”
While a number of residents spoke in favor of deer management in the city, Mike Homolka said one of the best things about Waupaca is its deer population.
He and his wife, Barb, live on Townsend Road.
She asked how the city will make a decision since most people attending the informational meeting do not like the number of deer living in the city.
They attended the Oct. 4 council meeting as well, which is when she told the council she and her husband believe the residents and deer should coexist.
She also told the council there are about 60 animals that carry deer ticks.
Ald. Paul Mayou said he believes the city should consider hiring sharpshooters.
Perhaps the cost could be shared by the city and citizens, he said.
Ald. Lori Chesnut said in her district, there is interest in taking advantage of the state’s Act 71.
Chesnut said the city needs to do something but also cautioned as to that direction, saying the city does not want to go from one problem to another.
Protests occurred in some communities when they hired sharpshooters to address their deer population.
“There are people who care about deer and other people who think there are too many deer. We do know there are certain areas with too many,” the mayor said after the council voted in favor of the appointment of an ad hoc committee to study the issue.