The dilemma of suburban deer management is not unique to the St. Louis region. Metropolitan areas across the country face similar issues related to the growth of white-tailed deer populations. As suburban communities continue to develop and expand, the natural predators of deer have become nonexistent, making the vehicle the primary “predator” for deer control. Des Peres is no exception to this pattern. Like many cities in west St. Louis County, Des Peres offers a suitable habitat for deer to survive. Urban woodland areas such as Phantom Forest, Bittersweet Woods and Sugar Creek Park provide ideal foraging opportunities for displaced deer. These circumstances have created some negative impacts and safety concerns for Des Peres residents, including deer-vehicle collisions, landscape damage and degraded habitat quality.
The City launched its first campaign to address the growing deer population in 2016 by conducting a census to determine whether or not a problem existed. This was accomplished by using a methodology called distance sampling, a survey technique utilizing software and high-powered spotlights to estimate population density. The same approach was used in our most recent 2019 Survey, which wrapped up in mid-February. As expected both studies revealed significant deer populations west of I-270, specifically in areas with concentrated woodlands and large tracts of land. Our findings show that approximately 113 deer inhabit the area west of I-270, representing a density rate of 51 deer per square mile. No deer were spotted east of I-270 even though it accounts for 49% of the land in Des Peres. The study advises that residents east of the highway may still experience conflicts with deer, but the area would be considered to have low deer densities.
Addressing the topic of overabundant deer will ultimately require adoption of a deer management plan. Choosing a plan can be challenging given the wide variety of attitudes toward deer and deer control measures. The City recognizes that there are both positive and negative impacts of having deer in the community. Many people enjoy observing deer. At the same time, they can do extensive damage to property and create safety hazards for motorists. We also understand that a deer management plan will require an ongoing commitment of both time and resources. In terms of options, trapping and relocation of deer has been found to be ineffective (and is no longer permitted by the Missouri Department of Conservation). Sterilization, using either contraceptives or surgical procedures, has proven to be inefficient and expensive. The most effective method of managing suburban deer herds appears to be by: (1) eliminating current prohibitions on deer hunting within the City limits and allow archery hunting on large tracts of land under controlled conditions or (2) herd reductions using professionally trained sharpshooters under tightly controlled conditions. Des Peres will be examining both options, among others, and the appropriate safeguards.
Our plan going forward is to continue monitoring deer activity around town. Developing a meaningful deer management plan necessitates the collection of current and accurate information on the extent of our deer population. We strongly encourage all residents to complement our efforts by reporting deer-related incidents to the Department of Public Works and/or Public Safety.Please see the following links:
2019 Deer Management Plan
2019 Distance Sampling Report
2017 Distance Sampling Report
2016 Distance Sampling Report