To help residents of the Riverside Drive area feel more comfortable about dealing with the deer population in their neighborhood, Gainesville city officials have promised to make a list of trustworthy hunters.
City and state wildlife officials tried to offer guidance Thursday to a room full of area residents who were concerned about the number of deer living in their neighborhood.
The residents met for about an hour and a half at the Elk’s Lodge on Riverside Drive, many of them with questions on how they could most effectively curtail the whitetail deer population.
Managing the deer population, however, will take some time, cautioned Ken Riddleberger, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ area supervisor for game management in the Wildlife Resources Division.
The deer population has become an issue as Gainesville developed from a mostly rural area to an urban environment, Riddleberger said. And as more people have moved to the area, the deer population has reached its “social carrying capacity,” said John Bowers, assistant chief of the DNR’s game management division.
A study by the DNR said the state’s deer population has grown from 198,000 to 1 million in the past 35 years.
“The problem didn’t happen overnight; it’s not going to be fixed overnight,” Riddleberger said.
He said the best way to deal with the deer would be controlled hunts.
The DNR released a management plan for urban deer populations in 2005. The plan urges local governments and private landowners to use regulated hunting methods to manage deer, but notes that other nonlethal methods, including repellents, are available.
Hunting in the Gainesville city limits cannot be done using firearms. Various bow hunters and bow-hunting groups stepped forward at the meeting to offer their services to property owners.
But some residents were disappointed to hear that deer hunting season ended in January. State law prohibits deer hunting again until September.
Some residents asked for DNR officials to make exceptions to the law to allow them to deal with the deer before the spring planting season. Bowers told them that hunting season is determined based on biological factors, and Riddleberger again reminded residents that it would take time to manage the area’s deer population.
“You’re going to have to commit yourself to a long-term solution,” he said.
After other local officials offered information on what residents should do with dead or dying deer in their neighborhood, city officials offered to compile a list of experienced and bonded hunting groups that residents could trust.
After the meeting, City Manager Kip Padgett said city officials would soon try to establish a set of criteria for hunters, and produce an approved list of hunters to recommend to residents based on the established criteria.
Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner said the list would help keep inexperienced, unsafe hunters from hunting in the residential area.
She said hunters could notify the city’s Code Enforcement office of their qualifications, so city officials could pass along the information to any residents who asked for it.
“It’s kind of a new concept for most people, myself included, to know who they can call and trust,” Bruner said.