City Council hears citizens’ options and opinions on hunting within Marion | Community

Stephanie Porter-Nichols

Marion leaders continue to evaluate the possibility of allowing certain forms of hunting in the city to address citizen complaints about deer damage.

At its meeting earlier this month, they learned that if they want to take action to control the deer population, hunting is the least expensive method. During a public hearing on this possibility, the municipal council heard one citizen for and another against.

At the start of the session, MPD leader John Clair explained that the city was not considering any form of gun hunting, but rather was looking at other methods such as bow and pistol hunting. pressurized air.

Bill Bassinger and Jeff Pease of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) provided information to city leaders but took no position on the matter.

Pease told the council: “We are here as a resource for all of you. We recognize that legal, ethical and safe hunting is a way to manage wildlife populations.

Bassinger, a wildlife biologist, said he presented the city with three options for managing the deer population: hire a contractor to kill the deer; allow MPD agents to kill the deer and possibly have the meat prepared for donation; or allow licensed hunters to kill deer. Of the three, Bassinger said a private contractor quickly becomes expensive, while allowing hunting is the most economical. He also noted that many hunters consume what they kill.

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In addition to normal hunting seasons, the city is also considering joining the urban archery program that extends the deer season, which Bassinger says helps harvest drivers from the population.

Fifty-six locations around Virginia participate in the urban archery program. These include Saltville, Wytheville, Tazewell, Richlands, Pulaski, Independence, Hillsville, Galax, Blacksburg and Radford.

Some of these cities impose no restrictions or minimal restrictions, while others impose various regulations on the season. A commonly enforced rule requires hunters to have written permission from individual landowners to access and hunt on their land. Many cities say that no one “may fire a bow within 100 yards of a dwelling, building, street, sidewalk, alley, roadway, public land or a public place within the limits of the city”.

The urban archery program is overseen by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

The DWR website states, “The urban archery season gives localities a way to reduce deer populations within their boundaries while providing hunting recreation.”

Council member Susie Jennings asked DWR officials what assurances could be given that the arrows would not be fired at a house or vehicle.

Bassinger told him that such assurances did not exist. Any weapon, he said, is only as good as its user and it is only as safe as its user.

Since 2007, Pease noted that only five security incidents involving a bow or crossbow have been reported.

Hunting advocates note the increased risk of disease, including chronic wasting disease, among dense deer populations. Bassinger said CWD is 100% fatal without a cure. The only way to control the disease is to reduce the deer population, he said.

If hunting was allowed, Bassinger pointed out, “you would never eliminate the deer.”

Marion resident Pete Mowbray spoke out in favor of hunting in the town. He said the Board’s review of the matter is timely. He agreed that an extended season for hunting female deer would be important for population control.

Erwin Rowland, also a resident of Marion, noted that she suffered landscaping damage from deer. However, brandishing an arrow she had found in her garden, she said, “I’m really worried about safety. While officials said the arrow she discovered was for marksmanship practice, the one Mayor David Helms found on his property was a hunting implement.

Rowland opposed allowing hunting in the city, saying not all hunters are ethical or hunt legally.

She expressed her preference for MPD officers to kill the deer and give the meat away for food. “It’s a controlled and ethical situation,” she said.

For the safety and quality of life of citizens, Rowland said, hunting should not be allowed.

In earlier discussions, officials found the issue to be complex, particularly protecting the property rights of landowners who do not want hunting to take place on their land. If urban archery or some other form of hunting goes ahead, City Manager Bill Rush said private landowners would be able to figure out what’s happening on their land. However, he and other officials noted the problems of injured animals crossing borders and the disposal of carcasses found on properties where hunting is not permitted.

During the meeting, City Manager Bill Rush noted that responding to hunt-related calls will have some impact on Marion employees, particularly the MPD. “We have a finite number of officers,” he said.

At the end of the hearing, council unanimously referred the matter back to its ordinance committee and the planning commission for further study.