Mt. Lebanon Commission plans to vote July 28 on approving the municipality’s annual archery hunt.
Overseen for the past two years by Suburban Wildlife Management Solutions, the hunt is part of an overall program established by the commission in 2014 with the “measurable objective to reduce deer-vehicular collisions by 50%,” according to assistant municipal manager Ian McMeans.
The cost of the archery component would be about $8,000, he said, which matches the 2019 outlay.
During the commission’s July 14 discussion session, which was conducted virtually, McMeans provided comprehensive information about the deer management program, joined by Suburban Wildlife representative Jason Brunetti.
The bow-and-arrow hunt takes place during the period established by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for “Deer, Archery,” which begins statewide Oct. 3 this year.
In managing archery hunts in Mt. Lebanon and other communities, Brunetti’s organization screens volunteers before they can participate.
“They’re required to fill out an application,” he said. “They’re required to go through a criminal history background check. We check their history in similar programs.”
Applicants undergo bow-and-arrow shooting proficiency tests, and those who pass and are accepted are subject to oversight and monitoring by the management team. Arrows are marked to identify each archer.
“If an arrow is found in a place it’s not supposed to be found, we can very easily address who, at least from our program, shot it,” Brunetti said, noting hunting takes place from an elevated position in a tree stand. “We don’t take any shots over 20 yards at the deer.”
As per Game Commission regulations, hunting takes place only from dusk until dawn.
The Mt. Lebanon locations have been in the conservation area off Connor Road, the municipal golf course, three parks – Twin Hills Park, McNeilly Park and Robb Hollow Park – and on a few private properties.
“Safety is always the top priority of the program,” McMeans said. “They’re not going to be conducting removal activities if members of the public are around.”
He recommended the municipality continue to contract with Suburban Wildlife Management Solutions.
“They’re familiar with the community,” McMeans said. “They’re familiar with working with our police department to work through sites, work through any issues that arise.”
He explained the Game Commission requires an archery hunt in connection with granting Mt. Lebanon a deer control permit.
The other major component of the management plan is a winter sharpshooting cull. Information provided by McMeans shows “deer removal totals” at an overall 466 from 2015-19, with 271 attributed to sharpshooting and 195 to archery.
For the same time period, deer management program costs are listed as $269,578.60, with the majority going toward sharpshooting. Within the total outlay is $6,798.74, early in the program, for education, signage and other nonlethal methods of management.
Regarding deer-vehicular collisions in Mt. Lebanon, the annual total peaked at 122 in 2016 and dropped to 61 two years later, according to information presented at the discussion session.
While those numbers represent a decrease of exactly 50%, the totals listed for 2013 and 2014 are much lower, at 44 and 57, respectively. No totals were provided for 2019.
Deer management in Mt. Lebanon has been a topic of much discussion throughout the community for at least a decade and a half, and when their meetings are conducted publicly, commissioners often hear plenty of related commentary from residents.
“There have been from time to time people who have come to commission meetings to express thanks for having the program,” Craig Grella, commission president, said. “But by far, I think the majority of people who have expressed public comment have been to not have the program, or to do other methods.
Commissioners Steve Silverman, Mindy Ranney and Leeann Foster all said they generally receive positive feedback about the program.
“What I have heard from residents and what I believe on this issue is that it is a public health and safety issue, and that may cost us some dollars that don’t come back to us directly,” Foster said. “But I think that’s the sentiment of the residents.”
Commissioner Andrew Flynn expressed somewhat of a different perspective.
“I’ve lived in places where there’s a lot more wildlife than there is here, and you learn to slow down. And you learn to pay attention,” he said. “I think it’s a valid point, but there are different approaches if it’s simply just a safety issue.”