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Dalton Gardens not yet at full draw for hunting deer

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | December 2, 2020 1:09 AM

The hour the city of Dalton Gardens booked to come together for a virtual public workshop was a full one, as citizens came out to listen to and comment on a future ordinance to potentially allow some form of archery hunt for deer that wander into town.

Deer — among other wildlife — have been getting more and more comfortable with Dalton Gardens, city officials have said, leading to collisions with cars, property damage to fences and other entanglements.

The city has noticed enough to recognize the issue at a November council meeting, where the council discussion evolved to the scheduling of the Dec. 1 workshop. Council member Ray Craft said he understood why the topic of hunting within city limits could generate a lot of passion, but he said it was important to direct that passion to the well-being of the deer population.

“If we can put our emotions aside for now and focus on what is best for our wildlife and us humans,” he said, “ever since humankind began intruding … We humans have caused the imbalance of nature’s plan. I feel we owe it to nature to become good stewards of nature’s wildlife.”

Craig Walker, regional conservation officer for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Coeur d’Alene, warned of another problem resulting from the deer population sharing close quarters in Dalton Gardens: chronic wasting disease.

That disease was one of many factors the city council will weigh, alongside how the city would survey the exact deer population, who would be initially allowed to hunt, if a lottery would be used for hunters, and whether or not bucks should be excluded.

Another topic that came up was the possible knot of legal entanglements hunting a deer could bring. For example, one member of the public asked what would happen if a hunter tracked a deer onto private property and the property owner called the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. When asked about a similar hypothetical, Lt. Ryan Higgins — public information officer for the KCSO — said the idea brings a number of concerns that would need to be addressed.

“One problem that will come up with archery hunting,” Higgins said, “is the wounded deer running around the city and the ‘hunter’ having to go possibly from yard to yard tracking the deer."

All agreed — again, not formally, since no ordinance or resolution was proposed — that only experienced bow hunters should be able to take part. The city is looking to enlist the help of an archery group that would provide stringent certification to qualify for such a hunt.

Still, the idea of hunting in a human-populated city made some uneasy.

“I don’t care if you’ve hunted for 40 or 50 years,” Mayor Dan Edwards said. “I want special training ... for how a hunter is going to hunt within the city of Dalton Gardens.”

“At this point,” council member Aaron O’Brien admitted, “I’m going to have a really hard time voting for something like this.”

This was the first workshop to deal with the issue, but it likely won’t be the last. Council agreed they would likely schedule another workshop in the coming months.