Deer Management

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 2020 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.

Deer Management 

In August 2020, the Des Peres Board of Aldermen adopted legislation the allow trained archery hunters to hunt deer within city limits with a permit from the Des Peres Public Safety Department. An ordinance prohibiting the supplemental feeding of deer was also enacted in 2019 alongside a request to the Missouri Department of Conservation seeking permission to host a managed archery hunt in Phantom Forest and Bittersweet Woods in 2020. 

All three measures can be viewed in their entirety below: 

Ordinance Legalizing Archery Hunting of Deer
Ordinance Prohibiting the Supplemental Feeding of Wildlife and Deer
Resolution Seeking Permission to Host a Managed Archery Hunt 

Obtaining Permission to Bow Hunt

The Des Peres Department of Public Safety is responsible for maintaining all records, permits and files for the ordinance allowing archery hunting of deer. Effective November 25, 2020, bow hunting is permitted within the city limits of Des Peres provided hunters have successfully completed the required application process. The City maintains and makes available to the public a roster of bow hunters that have expressed interest in hunting on private property in Des Peres. However, the City does not endorse nor vet any group or individual. The City recommends that property owners conduct their own process for choosing a hunter from the list or from other sources.

2020 Archery Season & Hunting Requirements

The 2020 bow hunting season starts on September 15 and concludes January 15 with a break between November 13 and November 25. However, the City will not issue permits until hunting seasons restarts on November 25 to allow sufficient time for Public Safety to develop the necessary forms and internal procedures to govern the program. Those forms will be posted on this page upon completion by staff. 

To obtain permission to hunt, property owners must satisfy a number of requirements including but not limited to completing a Notification of Intent to Hunt application from Public Safety, providing a certificate of completion of an approved archery hunter safety course, and notifying in writing all contiguous properties of the planned hunt. Additionally, the ordinance does not authorize hunts on tracts of land under two acres unless adjacent property owners combine their parcels to form at least two acres.

All hunters are required to hunt from an elevated position at least 10 feet high that faces the interior of the property, and arrows must be shot at a downward angle to prevent any arrow from landing closer than 25 feet from a side or rear property line and 75 feet from a front yard property line. It is unlawful for a person to discharge an archery device within 30 yards of any dwelling or vehicle without express authority. Likewise, it is unlawful for any archery device to be discharged within 200 yards of a church, school, or playground unless the owner of such property has provided express written consent to such discharges of closer proximity at specified dates and time periods.