Deer-management program to allow sharpshooting in Iowa City parks to decrease deer population

With Iowa City’s deer-management program beginning in early December, the city has teamed up with a sharpshooting corporation in an effort to maintain the city’s deer population.


Ryan Adams

A pair of deer stand along the riverbank of the Iowa River north of Iowa City on June 11, 2019.

Hannah Rovner, News Reporter

The City of Iowa City is officially starting its deer population-management plan with deer-crossing signage at the beginning of the sharpshooting season.

The city has signed a contract with White Buffalo Inc. allowing sharpshooting of deer within certain city areas between Dec. 1 and March 31.

City councilors unanimously passed an ordinance at their Tuesday meeting to allow the open carry of firearms in parks for the purpose of the deer-management plan. This ordinance was up for a second consideration, according to city council documents.

According to city council documents, this ordinance would amend Title 10 of Parks and Recreation Regulation to allow the carrying of firearms in pursuit of the deer-management program beginning shortly.

Since 2018, the city has worked with the public and White Buffalo Inc. to implement the plan. After rejecting the city’s plan twice, the Iowa Natural Resources Commission approved one sharpshooting season and four years of public bow hunts following the council’s passing of the resolution on Aug. 6.

The city managed its deer population for approximately 10 years by means of sharpshooting from 2000 to 2010, according to city council documents. In May, the Iowa Natural Resource Commission denied the request; it advised that the council seek community input regarding this topic.

RELATED: IC City Council undecided on how to deal with deer population

After the community shot down the idea, city officials communicated with the commission and the Department of Natural Resources, which stated in the documents it would approve a “professional sharpshooting contract for one year to decrease the deer population.”

Beginning Dec. 1 and lasting through Dec. 22, city parks will close from 3 p.m. until dawn to allow White Buffalo Inc. to begin the deer-management process.

“The length of the closure is geared to maximize culling efforts during the sharpshooting phase of the city’s five-year deer-management plan,” Iowa City Parks and Recreation Director Juli Seydell Johnson said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “… Providing a consistent closing time throughout the process allows operations to change frequently without worrying about last-minute public notification.”

A city news release stated these parks include Waterworks Prairie Park, Thornberry Off-leash dog park, Peninsula Disc Golf Course, City Park, The Ned Ashton House, Terrell Mill Park, Hickory Hill Park, Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, and Oakland Cemetery.

“A consistent closing time prior to sunset, allows for visual site inspection, and allowing time for the areas to quiet following the departure of visitors. This will give sharpshooters ample time to ensure the area is clear for their work and that the deer have repopulated the area,” Johnson said in her email.

RELATED: Public forum held on city deer-reduction plan

Iowa City’s animal-control coordinator Chris Whitmore voiced her support for the program.

“There has been a population explosion. Concerns about the deer becoming hit by vehicles and damaging properties is the reason for this management program to be put into place,” Whitmore said.

Whitmore added that sharpshooting and bowhunting is one of the only viable sources to maintain this population. She also said there could potentially be a sterilization tactic to stop the population growth of deer, but in the meantime, sharpshooting is the best option.

A University of Iowa press release noted that the deer shooting would affect areas of UI grounds, including woods west of the UI Sports Medicine clinic and north of Finkbine Golf Course.

“The safety of students, faculty, staff, and public is the university’s top priority, especially for members of UI community who may live, work, or study near these areas,” the release stated.