Euthanized buck puts Pinery deer issue back in the spotlight

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The decision to euthanize a buck gravely wounded by an arrow has brought renewed attention to an ever-growing problem in the Pinery: conflicts between humans and deer.

The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife first began receiving reports Nov. 14 from residents who saw a deer with a metal arrow sticking out of its side. Attempts to track down the deer that day to assess its condition were unsuccessful, but wildlife officers were called out the following day and found the deer severely injured, said Jennifer Churchill, spokeswoman for the wildlife division.

“Our officers found the animal and determined that the arrow (caused) a mortal, grave injury,” she said. “It was definitely suffering.”

Officials are unsure whether the buck was hunted legally on nearby private property or targeted by an angry homeowner in the Pinery. Wildlife authorities are trying to determine the origin of the arrow and are encouraging anyone with information to call 303-291-7227.

The meat from the deer was donated to a local family whose child has an allergy to farm-raised meat, Churchill said.

The death of the buck has stirred up emotions from both sides of the debate. The Pinery has wrestled in recent years with trying to devise a solution that will mitigate conflicts with wildlife, and some have suggested reducing the population through limited hunting. A survey of Pinery residents by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife last November yielded nearly 1,500 responses, and 58 percent were in favor of recreational hunting to cull the growing herds.

Opponents have blasted the idea of hunting in a neighborhood, whether with firearms or bow and arrow. Some argue that the deer were there first and say many homeowners moved to the Pinery in part because of the abundance of wildlife and open spaces. Roughly 70 percent of the survey respondents felt there are too many deer in the Pinery.

Max Fry, chairman of a newly-formed Pinery resident group called the Human/Wildlife Coexistence Working Group, says there are ways to reduce impacts, including putting fences around plants and gardens that attract the deer closer to homes. A steady food supply, including from those who admit to feeding the deer, has caused the population to grow and there is little reason for them to move on.

Fry has not found a proposal that he fully supports, and said education is likely the best solution — at least temporarily.

“Recreational hunting is way too dangerous,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any place in the Pinery where you should fire off a rifle.”

The survey results are generally representative of the feelings of Pinery homeowners, Fry said, but he cautioned that those with a strong opinion were more likely to answer the survey, which went out to 3,700 residents.

The Pinery Homeowners Association board of directors recently developed a policy on deer that will be included in the November newsletter. In it, the board acknowledges the conflicts, including vehicle accidents, landscape damage and injuries to pets, but takes a strong stand against all proposed methods to reduce the deer population, from hunting to relocation to contraception. Fry and other homeowners are hoping wildlife officials can provide guidance.

“People are expecting the CPW to do something, whatever they decide to do,” he said.

But Churchill said because each community in Colorado has different opinions, the division leaves the decision-making up to HOAs.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife does not have a plan. The neighborhood needs to come up with a plan,” she said. “All we can do as a government agency is explain what’s possible and feasible, and facilitate different ways to manage the wildlife.”

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