How deer culling went in Helena this year

Mule Deer (MTN News file photo)
Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-03 11:41:56-04

HELENA — Helena’s deer culling program has come to an end. MTN caught up with Helena’s police chief to see how the program went this year.

Last year. Helena Police Chief Brett Petty told MTN News that the socially tolerable density per square mile for deer is 25/square mile. At the beginning of this season, there were 64/square mile in Helena. The deer culling program works to help mitigate conflict between wildlife and humans and domesticated pets. It also works to help check for disease in the deer population.

“It’s not only to do the, to maintain a socially tolerable density of deer in town, but it’s also the checking for that Chronic Wasting Disease,” says Petty.

For this culling season, a limit of 250 deer was set, the highest it’s ever been for the program. Despite that, only 55 deer were caught.

Helena’s Chief of Police Brett Petty cites a couple of possible reasons.

“I think with our urban wildlife person getting more experience with the traps, getting his layout of, you know, 'hey we want to set traps here' and kind of getting his system rolled out, I think that’ll increase. And then, we actually saw winter this year,” says Petty.

Though this year’s numbers were lower than expected, Petty believes that subsequent years will lead to more deer being captured.

And the venison doesn’t go to waste. The deer that were caught this year were processed by Old Salt Co-op. A little over 1,600 pounds was then sent to Helena Food Share to help feed the community.

“You know, the deer culling has a pretty big impact for us. It generates, you know, thousands of pounds of ground meat that we’re able to make available to folks. It’s really appreciated,” says Executive Director at Helena Food Share, Bruce Day.