USDA outlines options on deer

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Bringing mountain lions and wolves into Mt. Lebanon would help control the deer population, but it was not among the suggestions in a plan the U.S. Department of Agriculture prepared for the town.

Still, "predator reintroduction" was included in a list of what could be considered, with estimates and consequences of each.

The USDA recommended sharpshooting at night, using bait, trapping and shooting, and controlled bow hunts as the best long-term solution for the deer problem, which has led to complaints about traffic accidents, possible spread of disease and damage to gardens.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission requires such a report before a town can be granted a permit to conduct a hunt.

The plan cites the deer management plans of Fox Chapel and Upper St. Clair, both of which have used culling by sharpshooters and bow hunters.

"Both municipalities have decades of data to support culling as an effective management strategy," the report says. It details several nonlethal methods but goes on to say why each would not work.

First, it argued that active management is more natural than no action. "A 'hands off' approach is both ecologically and ethically irresponsible," it says.

Reintroducing predators would be illegal and biologically unsound.

It argues that birth control does not work on free-ranging deer herds.

Capturing the deer and moving them to somewhere more suitable would be too stressful for the animals and could introduce disease or parasites into new environments.

The municipality is to work with the USDA and the game commission to identify safe locations for controlled public bow hunting by Whitetail Management Associates, a group of regional hunters.

Mt. Lebanon also is to develop educational materials that can give solutions for use on private property to help reduce damage. Such ideas could include landscaping alternatives and fences or other barriers.

Mt. Lebanon would conduct deer density surveys at least once every three years to help measure success. Deer-vehicle collisions also have to be mapped and counted, with consideration to changes of speed limits and signs.

The town also would create a deer management committee consisting of municipal leaders, game commission staff and, perhaps, representatives of the USDA and Whitetail Management. The goal is to reduce the herd from 15 per square mile to one to three per square mile. No more than 75 deer would be killed under the plan.

The plan suggests the municipality adopt an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of certain wildlife to "help reduce immigration of 'new' deer into the population following control methods."

At their meeting Monday, commissioners introduced changes to the town code that would allow "the discharge of firearms" to accommodate the proposed deer management plan. There is no timetable for a vote on that ordinance change nor did commissioners discuss when they would vote on the proposed deer control plan.


Laura Pace can be reached at lpace@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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