A Pittsburgh-area firm has been hired to conduct the sharpshooting portion of Mt. Lebanon’s deer management program, at a cost not to exceed $37,000.
Suburban Wildlife Management Solutions Inc. will remove up to 50 deer from Feb. 1 through March 31, the period of a permit issued by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The firm has led controlled bow hunts as part of Mt. Lebanon’s program each fall since 2017.
Mt. Lebanon commissioners unanimously approved the agreement during their Nov. 24 meeting.
“The commission is reviewing the cost of this program and investigating other options to bring the total cost down while maintaining our high safety standards,” Commissioner Mindy Ranney said prior to the vote.
Hiring Suburban Wildlife Management comes at a lower cost than contacting with the organization that previously handled the sharpshooting component.
White Buffalo Inc. submitted two proposals for 2021, assistant municipal manager Ian McMeans said at the commission’s discussion session preceding the regular meeting.
For $45,878, the intent was to conduct a single two-week culling phase at some point during the permit period, has had been done in the past. An alternative plan called for a pair of one-week phases, at a cost of about $52,000 to account for the hunters’ extra travel time.
“The reason they proposed that was because the last few years, they have noted in their final reports that the weather played an impact on the sharpshooting program,” McMeans said of the latter proposal.
During milder winters, deer are able to locate food more readily and are less likely to be attracted to bait, he said.
Suburban Wildlife Management Solutions plans to use the entire permit period “kind of on an as-needed basis,” he said.
“Their professionals are local, so they would be able to kind of come and go during that whole permit period and not be bringing in out-of-town sharpshooters just for one two-week period,” McMeans said.
Mt. Lebanon operates two components of the deer management program in compliance with the state agency that is responsible for wildlife conservation and management.
“The municipality does have to apply for and receive a special-use permit through the Game Commission to conduct the sharpshooting program, and one of the prerequisites to receiving that permit is that we have to offer an archery program first,” McMeans said.
Commissioner Andrew Flynn inquired about the possibility of saving money by sharpshooting every two years.
With regard to the management program’s goal of reducing the number of local deer-vehicle accidents, municipal manager Keith McGill said eliminating a winter of sharpshooting could have a significant effect on the population of the animals.
“Under favorable conditions – meaning there is a sufficient food supply and lack of natural predator, which is what we have here – a female deer will produce, on average, two fawns during a season,” he said.
McGill cited the impact of taking a year off and not removing, for example, 40 deer.
“That following year,” he said, “we would have those 40 that we did not remove plus an additional potentially 80 deer.”