Pittsburgh looking to allow limited deer hunting in some city parks

In an effort to curb Pittsburgh’s deer population, city officials are looking to allow limited deer hunting in some city parks this fall.

Legislation before Pittsburgh City Council would clear the way for a targeted hunting program in the city’s Frick and Riverview parks, said Maria Montaño, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Gainey. The city would partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania Game Commission to run the program.

“The deer population is reaching a point where it’s beginning to cause problems with our parks from an ecological standpoint as well as residential concerns around deer eating their gardens and whatnot,” Montaño said. “We’ve been looking into this for a while now.”

Officials hope to launch a program by this fall, Montaño said.

People interested in hunting deer would need to have a license and pass additional qualifications to participate in the limited hunting program, available to no more than 30 people, Montaño said.

“There will be a designated hunting day,” she said. “The public will be notified in advance. The parks will be closed.”

Patrols would be posted at the parks to ensure safety during the hunting day, she said.

There would be additional requirements, including a rule that the first doe a hunter kills during the program be donated to a local food bank, Montaño said.

Additional information on how to qualify and the requirements for participating hunters will be released soon, she said.

After the initial round of hunters, Montaño said, the city is planning to bring in a professional USDA team to conduct additional hunting as needed.

She estimated the overall cost for the initiative to be between $10,000 and $11,000.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy said in a statement that it would “defer to city leadership on their efforts to reduce rising deer populations in Pittsburgh’s green spaces.”

The conservancy said the large deer population in Pittsburgh’s parks “can have severe and long-lasting impacts on our urban forest’s ecosystem.” Deer can cause physical damage “through direct browsing and buck rubbing,” which reduces forests’ abilities to regenerate, the conservancy said.

Legislation introduced to City Council on Tuesday would amend city code to allow for the hunting.

According to that legislation, the USDA estimated Pittsburgh’s regional parks have about 51 deer per square mile. A more appropriate number of deer for such an area would be about 10, the legislation said.

The legislation also suggested that a larger deer population could increase the risk of vehicle crashes involving deer and increase cases of Lyme disease.

The legislation could be up for a preliminary vote Wednesday and then up for a final vote as soon as next week.

Julia Felton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Julia by email at jfelton@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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