Portage police officers may be used to combat deer encroachment.
City Administrator Shawn Murphy told city budget-makers this week to expect a proposal to buy equipment and acquire permits and certifications necessary to allow city personnel to act as sharpshooters to control the local deer population.
Common Council members have been grappling with the issue for years, especially at the Portage Municipal Airport. Periodically, the city has hired sharpshooters to harvest deer from stands in city parks and on other city land at night.
Instead of hiring sharpshooters, the city may contract with Police Department employees, via an addition to the employees’ union agreement, to trade the hours worked for compensation time.
Murphy said the officers could be certified as sharpshooters by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources could issue a permit for the special hunt.
The city would also have to purchase a deer stand and a gun silencer. Exact figures on the city’s costs have not yet been presented, but Murphy said he thinks the city can remove deer for less than half the cost of hiring sharpshooters.
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The sharpshooters were paid about $100 per deer killed.
Murphy said the police officers could harvest up to 100 deer per year.
Common Council members on the city’s Finance and Administration Committee did not weigh in on the merit of the proposal at their Monday meeting.
Several Council members have said deer encroachment is an issue that needs to be addressed. Airport officials have noted that it is a liability issue for pilots trying to land on runways, which are regularly overrun by deer and other wildlife.
Funding for a deer eradication program has not been incorporated in early drafts of the 2015 city budget, nor was it included in a draft of the Municipal Services Department budget Monday.
It will need to be added down the road if Council members choose to endorse it for implementation next year. Or it could find money in the 2014 city budget to carry out deer kills sooner.