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After a delayed start, Portage officials are happy with the progress of the city's deer-culling program.

While some celebrate the rapidly melting snow, the lack of it makes culling deer more difficult for the city-funded abatement program.

“Overall, for the first year I think it’s going well. The snow went away sooner than we would’ve liked, but we’re making the best of it,” said Dan Kremer, Portage parks and recreation manager.

Waiting on permits and bone-chilling temperatures had the program starting later than expected, but Portage police officers have harvested five deer since March 2.

Several Common Council members have said deer encroachment is an issue that needs to be addressed. Portage Municipal 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.

“The DNR issues up to 100 deer to be harvested ... but there’s no magic number (for the city). We’re just keeping it safer on the runway and roads,” Kremer said.

Safety is the primary goal in conducting the program.

Portage Police Administrative Lt. Keith Klafke said there are several steps they take to ensure there are no risks involved to the public.

“We’ve got to shoot from an elevated position; we bait them to a certain location so we can judge and dictate where our shots are going to be in; and we use ambient light, like the moon or the snow on the ground,” he said.

Klafke and Officer Jason Stenberg are firearms instructors with the Portage Police Department. The city-funded program's upfront cost was about $1,500 for equipment and supplies.

“We prepare the deer: each deer has to be documented of where it was taken; male or female; a series of tags are issued to each deer and all the DNR requirements are fulfilled. Then we go down the list of people that signed up who are interested in obtaining a deer,” Klafke said.

About 100 people signed up to receive a deer, Kremer said, and more than 60 are Portage residents.

“We do have homes for the deer harvested. Nothing goes to waste,” he said.