The second phase of Mt. Lebanon’s Deer Management Program will continue Feb. 1 through March 31, with a cull of up to 150 deer conducted by sharpshooters certified by the nationally recognized wildlife management experts, White Buffalo, Inc.
The first phase of the 2015-16 deer management program was a controlled archery hunt managed by White Buffalo that began last fall and ended January 23. Aided by the Hunters’ Cooperative, a loosely organized group of experienced permitted hunters, the effort reached the goal of 100 deer with a large percentage of the meat donated to food banks.
Over the past several years, residents demanding deer management as well as those strongly opposed to lethal means of control have had the opportunity to hear and respond to the opinions of the various experts who addressed Mt. Lebanon Commission about all aspects of deer behavior and science. Some residents have expressed concerns about deer damaging the landscape, carrying Lyme disease or harming pets; however, Mt. Lebanon Commission’s stated goal in authorizing both programs is to decrease deer/vehicular collisions by one-half over the next five years. At the time the goal was established, deer/vehicular collisions numbered 44. Last year that number rose to 73.
The Commission has discussed deer sterilization extensively as a possible management tool, and sterilization remains on the table as a future option; however, officials decided that currently the best way to reduce the deer population and thus improve safety on the roads was the archery hunt followed by the cull.
To proceed with deer management, Mt. Lebanon had to submit a plan for approval by the Pennsylvania Game Commission covering topics such as deer density surveys, public outreach efforts and collision data. The Game Commission issued a special use deer control/political subdivision permit for the cull.
The cull will take place on private properties scattered about the municipality and in three public areas: McNeilly Park, Robb Hollow Park (and abutting public works property) and the municipal golf course. Municipal parks will remain open, but signs will be posted noting when and where shooting might take place.
With resident safety the primary concern, all private properties participating in the program were thoroughly vetted by White Buffalo’s wildlife biologists and technicians, as well as by trained marksmen from Mt. Lebanon Police Department who have served on the regional Critical Incident Response Team. Private properties that met the criteria are being used only if potentially affected neighbors have given their permission.
Shooting may take place on private property seven days a week between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. Shooting may take place on public property Monday through Friday only from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Technicians will shoot from fixed positions against backdrops. Frangible ammunition is used, further reducing the chances that a bullet could pass through. American Society of Veterinary Medicine methods of euthanizing will be used, ensuring that the deer will die in place. Deer will be removed intact and donated to Hunters Sharing the Harvest or its designated agents.
Baiting, which will take place prior to the start of culling operations, will start January 24. Under the conditions of the permit issued by the Game Commission, culling may begin February 1 and continue until March 31. Once the cull begins, White Buffalo will be in constant communication with Mt. Lebanon Police, notifying the police department approximately 24 hours in advance of where they plan to conduct that day’s field operations and notifying the chief or his designate when the day’s operations have concluded. They also will report if anything beyond the normal routine has occurred.
White Buffalo has worked for nearly two decades all over the country to control deer in many different environments, and no injury or death has ever resulted. Shooting is planned to take place during times of low activity; however, the technicians are trained to expect that people or animals other than deer might wander into the area, and they are able to easily adapt their plans in that event.
The municipality has notified neighboring communities of the upcoming cull. In addition, elementary and secondary school have been notified that the 1,000-foot Gun Free School Zone criteria applicable to public properties will be respected. Residents who are out walking during the hours of the cull should stay on sidewalks and established walking routes and avoid taking “shortcuts” through private property.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, maps, copies of letters sent to neighboring communities and schools, studies, commission meeting minutes and other pertinent information about deer are posted on the Mt. Lebanon municipal website, www.mtlebanon.org. Other information is posted at the Pennsylvania Game Commission website, or White Buffalo, www.whitebuffaloinc.org.
Once the cull begins, if you hear or see anything that concerns you, call 911 immediately.