Craig City Council member Jennifer Riley said she expects a full house tonight at Craig City Hall when the council is scheduled to make a decision on a proposed plan for removing a portion of the city’s deer population.
“Certainly there have been a lot of people writing in the paper, a lot of people contacting us on our e-mail through the city council’s website, phone calls, people stopping me — I would imagine there will be a lot of people there,” she said.
The city council is scheduled to consider the deer removal plan proposed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife at 7:30 p.m. today at Craig City Hall, 300 W. Fourth Street.
The DOW’s three-tiered plan entails removing a portion of the deer inside city limits by establishing an archery hunting area and season outside city limits, trapping and killing deer, and/or having a team of marksmen come in to the city to kill deer at night.
DOW officials said they would prefer to employ all three options in Craig.
Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said the city has received about 51 letters and e-mails from residents opposed to the city council moving forward with the plan, and 17 letters in favor of the plan, he said.
The city also recently received two petitions— the first with 62 signatures and another with 125 signatures — from Craig residents opposing the DOW’s plan, Ferree said.
Ferree said he expects more petitions against the plan to be presented to the city.
The city was also recently contacted via letter by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which protested the use of archery hunting as a method of dealing with the deer in Craig.
The same PETA senior cruelty caseworker that wrote the city said Monday that the organization asked its Colorado members to write to the city protesting the DOW’s plan.
Ferree said the city has received about 60 to 70 e-mails from PETA members around the state, but that number is “changing every time I am opening my e-mail,” he said.
Riley said she is not in favor of a “blanket extermination” of the city’s urban deer, but rather for dealing with aggressive deer on a situational basis.
But, Riley said she was unsure where the rest of the city council stood on the issue.
She said the council will give the issue a fair amount of time at the meeting, but is unsure if council members would make a decision or table the issue.
However, Riley said she felt a majority of area residents are against the DOW’s deer removal plan. She also said it would be wise for the council to consider the feedback it has received on the matter.
“That is my job as an elected official — to consider what the constituents want,” she said. “You have to weigh what is in the best interest of the people.
“There are people out there that think you shouldn’t do anything with any kind of animal, period. Is that in the best interest of the people? Probably not. Is taking the more moderate approach in the best interest of the people? In my opinion, it is.”
Council member Ray Beck said he was not in favor of the DOW’s proposed plan, and is advocating for the consideration of other options.
“There has got to be other things we can do,” he said.
Beck said he didn’t have a sense of what direction the council would lean at the meeting.
He estimated that residents wanting the council to leave the deer alone outnumber those in favor of the DOW’s plan 2-to-1.
“No matter what we do, or don’t do, we will probably be scrutinized for that,” Beck said. “But, we are going to try and accomplish what is in the best interest of the community.”
Beck said the deer removal plan has been a more controversial subject than he has ever dealt with while serving on the council.
“No matter how you dice it, it’s going to be a tough decision,” he said.
Council member Terry Carwile said the council would likely need to have more discussion about other deer control options before “we decide we are going to bite off on any of it.”
“From a personal standpoint, I have never had an adverse encounter with any of them,” he said.
Carwile said he is not opposed to an archery hunting season, but has “heartburn” with a deer trapping program in the city and is “apprehensive” about the “idea of shooting them in the middle of the night.”
“I have never seen an issue that’s engaged public opinion like this one in all my years of living here,” he said. “… I hear about it everywhere I go.”