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Deer In Our Cities: Missoula, Montana and Other US Cities

Updated on December 18, 2017
cam8510 profile image

Science, nature and the environment, with regard to human impact, are subjects to which Chris applies his passions for research and writing.

A friend and I drove around Missoula one evening and photographed the deer as they lounged in lawns, parks and along city streets.
A friend and I drove around Missoula one evening and photographed the deer as they lounged in lawns, parks and along city streets. | Source

The Problem of Deer in the City of Missoula, Montana

Missoula, Montana is being overrun by deer. Some call them invading ungulates. Others see humans as the invading species as new homes creep into the hills surrounding the city which have been the traditional home to deer.

The city is currently gathering an estimate of the number of deer living in the city, but early guesses range from fifteen hundred to three thousand. An evening drive through the neighborhoods in the hills surrounding the city will quickly reveal the scope of the problem. Deer stand in fenced yards, in flower and vegetable gardens, in parks and on the streets. They don’t run when you drive by or when you stop to photograph them. They simply aren’t afraid of humans.

The Deer Population in the City of Missoula, Montana

According to the City of Missoula, Montana, there are more than 3,000 deer living in this city of 67,000 people.

Next Generation, Missoulian Deer

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Source
Source

United States Whitetail Deer Population Increase Since 1900

In 1900, there were 500,000 whitetail deer in the United States. By 2014, that number had grown to over 28 million.

Sources: Cornell University, Ithaca NY

Deer Friendly (deerfriendly.com)

Where did the deer come from?

The deer come from the hills surrounding the city. As Missoula expands, people, homes, cars and streets crowd into the traditional habitat of these animals. It seems as though the deer have come to terms with this encroachment and have chosen to peacefully coexist with humans. At least, that is their take on the situation. The deer move in out of the city with ease as they travel along the valleys connecting the city with the surrounding countryside.

Protecting Young Trees

Fenced in Cherry tree.
Fenced in Cherry tree. | Source

Why Are Deer Moving Into the City of Missoula, Montana?

Actually, the deer have always been a part of the city of Missoula, but the numbers have definitely increased during recent years. There are three main reasons the deer are moving into the city in larger numbers.

  • Loss of habitat to humans.
  • Variety and abundance of food in the lawns and gardens of the city.
  • Safety from their natural predators in the wild, i.e. mountain lions, grizzlies, black bear, wolves and coyotes.

Pets or Pests?

In another photo, this same deer is inside the fence.  Fences must be at least eight feet high to effectively prevent deer from jumping into gardens and yards.
In another photo, this same deer is inside the fence. Fences must be at least eight feet high to effectively prevent deer from jumping into gardens and yards. | Source

What are the problems associated with so many deer living in close proximity to humans?

As this article was being written, it had only been five days since a passenger on a motorcycle was killed when the bike hit a deer on a city street at night. This is the second such fatality in four months in Missoula. At last report, alcohol may have been a factor in the latest fatality.

In addition to making driving even more dangerous than it already is, the deer eat vegetable gardens until there is nothing left. Deer fight with their antlers and with their hooves. There is a fear that deer, when cornered or threatened, might become aggressive. In light of this and the fact that deer love public parks, it may only be a matter of time before a child is harmed by a scared deer.

  • Unsafe driving conditions
  • destruction of vegetable gardens
  • Potential danger to children and adults by frightened deer.

Cute or Annoying?

Source

Proposed Solutions to the Deer Problem in Missoula, Montana

The capital of Montana, Helena, also has a deer problem and is a few years ahead of Missoula in dealing with the issue. After consulting with city residents, the city council chose to trap the deer and then kill them in as humane a way as possible. Fawns are released in another area. The results have been dramatic and have caught the attention of Missoula officials. Here are other ideas the city is considering.

  • Capturing and sterilizing the deer which would theoretically lead to fewer deer in the city as time passed.
  • Allowing hunters to shoot deer closer to the city during hunting season.
  • Trapping the deer in nets overnight and killing them with a bolt gun stunner.
  • Live trapping the deer and relocating them.
  • Learning to live with the deer as they seem to have learned to live with man.

A resolution by the city’s leadership will eventually be chosen, and it will certainly not meet with the approval of everyone. How should the decision be made? What is of highest importance? Is the welfare of the deer the ultimate concern or is the safety of drivers of automobiles and motorcycles the highest priority?

What are your thoughts on the issue? Have you heard of other cities facing this kind of problem? Share your solutions here.

The City of Missoula, Montana

The city of Missoula, Montana spends much of the summer beneath a canopy of smoke from nearby wildfires.  Is this one of the reasons deer descend into the city in such numbers?  Are they simply trying to escape the choking smoke?
The city of Missoula, Montana spends much of the summer beneath a canopy of smoke from nearby wildfires. Is this one of the reasons deer descend into the city in such numbers? Are they simply trying to escape the choking smoke? | Source

Other U.S. Cities with Encroaching Deer Populations

Staten Island, New York-In 2008, there were 24 deer on Staten Island. The island is 60 square miles in area, making it New York City's third largest borough. In the fall of 2014, the Parks Service reported 703 deer on Staten Island.

St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota

Columbus, Ohio

How Do Deer Get to Staten Island, NY?

Comments

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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      When I was growing up in Maine, deer were all over the countryside. I can see what a problem it would be in the cities, but mankind is everywhere, pushing animals out of their environment. So it was bound to happen. What a pity for the innocent animals.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      Chris, voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting, also shared on FB. Interesting article. Many people believe that deer are innocent, but they can do some real damage, not only to property, but to humans. Tough poll question. Personally, if they need to be killed, I'm down for donating the food, it's a great cause. Beautiful creatures though and a very informative article Chris.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      I couldn't agree more, Rosemay. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      PS, it is good that we can still feel deeply about all of the denizens of this planet. Thanks for sharing these thoughts here.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      It is certainly a problem when accidents are caused but hopefully a resolution will be found that suits both humans and the deer.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Thanks billubuc. I find

      myself being on the side of the deer for the most part. We can and should do better than killing these animals simply because they seem to be in our way. Thanks for reading.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      My sister and I were just discussing this today as she lives just outside of Austin Texas and has frequent encounters of the deer kind. Her pups want to challenge them so she has to rush them inside before the deer come over the fence.

      It breaks my heart---it is a problem there and in Montana but one which we have created and now must fix. I am a huge fan of these critters so I hope solutions can be devised so we and they can peacefully coexist.

      Great topic.

      Angels are on the way ps

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      5 years ago from North Carolina

      I like the last two options best but can well understand the prob there in Missoula, cam8510. My father -in-law grew up in S Gerogia during the 50s and said they were rather rare in those days as many ppls simply had to hunt them for food. With our hunting culture declining many other areas of the US are having the same prob. You hit a deer with your car in this state you wait for officials to come and write a report or the insurance won't pay for damages.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting article and a problem I think is faced by many cities as civilization continues to encroach on natural habitat....or in this case, the opposite is true. :) Do I have a solution? None...I just know I love deer. :)

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Becky, I appreciate those final words of yours very much.

      It sounds as though your town has learned to deal with the presence of deer and other wildlife very well. That is admirable. As I have spent time here in Missoula, I have mostly come into contact with people who are content to let the deer remain. That is how I feel, but then I am just a visitor.

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Becky. It's always nice to see you.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Hi Chris. I live in TN, in a mid-sized town. We have deer and other wildlife here too. We generally do not worry about them. We watch for them and try not to disturb them. Wooded patches in town are where most of them stay. They graze on the lawns of apartment complexes and in the parks. They do not seem to disturb anyone and people watch them with love and fascination. Occasionally one will get killed and they go to a butcher that cuts them up and packages them for the food pantries as a public service to the town.

      Something that does bother many residents is the large number of skunks in the town. They are known to carry rabies and will get into houses. We call animal control and they will come trap and relocate them, unless they are out during the day or acting aggressive. Those are probably rabid and are put down. They are a scourge. The people of this town seem to feel an affinity for the wildlife.

      I enjoyed this subject and seeing you on here. You have been missed.

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