Peters Township has taken the first step toward a potential sharpshooting deer-management program.
During their latest meeting, township council members voted 4-3 to authorize police Chief Douglas Grimes to file a permit application with the Pennsylvania Game Commission for a firearms-based initiative to complement the existing archery program to cull deer. Voting against were Frank Arcuri, Monica Merrell and Gary Stiegel Jr.
According to Grimes, the archery program has not achieved the desired result of a significant reduction in deer-car collisions and of property and crop damages. He told council over the past five years, the number of annual collisions that are reported consistently has been in the range of the low 70s to low 90s.
“What we see from year to year is our archers are predominantly only taking one or two deer as part of this program,” Grimes said. “We have a couple who veer off the scale there and get eight, nine or 10. But for the archery program to be successful, they need to take many more deer than that, to limit that population and reduce the number of car-deer collisions.”
Applying for the Game Commission permit at this juncture is necessary if a sharpshooting program has the possibility of going into effect for early 2022, he said.
“If we don’t file the applications now to at least be considered for that process,” he said, “we’ll miss that deadline, and we’ll be talking about this again next year.”
Should the permit be granted and the initiative gain council’s approval, it will involve a pair of officers in Grimes’ department who “have been approved by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as certified nuisance wildlife control operators for this type of program,” he wrote in a letter to township manager Paul Lauer.
“I’m proposing that they do this while on duty when staffing is sufficient to allow them this opportunity,” Grimes said at the council meeting. “They would be only two, and the cost to the township would be minimal.”
The amount listed by Lauer in township documents is $21,000.
Grimes said the effort would start on township property and “then move out as opportunity exists with private ground.”
“There’s a bait that’s put down that draws the deer from miles around, theoretically,” he said about the process. “It’s a very controlled manner. These people are expert marksmen who do this. They only take the shot when it’s safe to do so. The meat goes to one of the special projects for the hungry.”
Council members who opposed the sharpshooting permit application questioned whether the archery program could be made more effective.
“If we were more proactive, we probably would have more properties, and if we were more proactive in recruitment, we’d have more archers,” Arcuri said. “I’m not a big supporter of using firearms and opening that whole can of worms that was opened in Mt. Lebanon.”
That municipality has faced prolonged opposition to its sharpshooting program, and Peters Township could be subject to something similar if efforts toward implementation proceed.
“I think there’s going to be interest inside the community,” Lauer said, “and it may well make sense to have a public hearing on this subject prior to doing it.”