HELENA- Work began this week to lower the number of deer that have made Helena their home for more than ten years.
Helena police say they’re looking for more private property owners to take part in the program.”

“This is where they live, they feel comfortable around people,” says Helena Chief of Police Troy McGee.

“They feel comfortable around pets at times. You know in the wild they probably won’t react the same way, but in the city, this is their habitat. They’re used to it.”

Jack Stults has taken part in the deer removal program since it’s beginning in 2008. “We’ve had as many as 23 in the yard,” he says.

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For the past week, the City of Helena has been removing mule deer from capital city neighborhoods.

“About ten, fifteen years ago we started seeing more and more deer in the city,” says Chief McGee. “When I started (with the department) you rarely would see a deer in the city, that was pretty uncommon. It’s just become more and more common. ”

“We’ve removed almost about a 1,000 deer and it’s been approximately 30,000 pounds of venison donated to Helena Food Share.”

“We know the doe who produced the fawns and we see the fawns and we see them grow up,” says Stults.

Life in town is pretty good for deer. Stults’ backyard in the hills above town is covered with fresh deer tracks.

“They bed down and also give birth in this swale here,” he says, pointing to the gully behind his home.

“It’s easy eating in the city,” says McGee. “Some of it is the drought we had for a while, the heavy drought drew them in and they’ve just decided that this is a good place to stay and I think other cities around Montana are starting to see it.”

The deer that call Helena neighborhoods home generate conflicts. Damage to property, and confrontations with pets and people.

“And then we were having, not a lot, but quite a few animals and pets and even people that were being challenged and attacked by the deer at times,” says the Chief.

Stults recalls an incident when he had friends with him in his backyard.

“A doe was here with her fawn and a little dog came around the corner and it freaked the doe out and she jumped on it. And it didn’t kill the dog, but it hurt it. And I just thought…if that had been a child.”

The deer are trapped and dispatched on private property. Helena police would like to know if more private property owners would like to see the deer numbers kept in check.

“Usually citizens who are having quite a few concerns about deer in their yard in their neighborhood will call us,” says McGee.

Stults says he’s spoken to his neighbors every few years about the program. He says he’s pleased with how the operation is carried out and he’s glad the venison collected is donated to Helena Food Share.

Chief McGee says the team responsible for the program is careful about where they place their traps and how they handle the critters they catch.

“And we’re just asking if there’s other citizens out there that are having concerns if they want to have a trap put in their yard to get a hold of us,” says the Chief.

For more information, call the Helena Police Department at 447-8479