Elk Ridge city officials address new lethal deer mitigation program

Aug 1, 2023, 9:02 PM | Updated: 9:06 pm

ELK RIDGE, Utah – More than 50 Elk Ridge residents gathered at Shuler Park Tuesday afternoon to voice their frustrations over the new deer mitigation program that went into effect Tuesday.

“I just want more information,” said Elk Ridge resident Clint Ashmead. “I think a lot of people here in the city of Elk Ridge don’t really know what’s going on. They just hear the deer are going to be killed.”

On Monday, KSL TV first reported about the deer mitigation plan and the petition signed by hundreds of residents to stop it. That petition shows a deer caught in a net, which Mayor Rob Haddock said is not how the deer in Elk Ridge would be captured.

“The picture and video they’re showing is a net that tangles up the deer and mangles it. It’s horrific, it’s not the method we use or what DWR approved,” Haddock said. “The deer can be released and survive.”

Elk Ridge residents and Mayor Rob Haddock talking about the new deer mitigation program that kills some deer. (KSL TV)

Haddock said the urban deer the city plans to remove are the ones that are sick and underweight. The healthy deer and other animals caught in the live trap can be safely released.

“We’re looking for the ones that aren’t healthy, below weight, or have a disease, those are the ones we’re targeting,” he said. “We’re not trying to eliminate the urban population; we’re trying to get it to a healthier, more manageable level that the state has encouraged us.”

Elk Ridge’s mayor said Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources had advised the city that a healthy urban deer population of the town would be close to 200. On Tuesday, Haddock said the population is closer to 400.

The new deer three-year mitigation plan, allows the city to euthanize the deer only in August. Haddock anticipates that 15 to 20 deer will be killed this month.

“I think killing the deer should be a last resort and not a first measure,” said Erin Clawson, Elk Ridge resident and former city council member.

During Tuesday’s gathering, current City Councilman Jared Peterson also fielded questions from frustrated residents. When pressed about why the mitigation plan was implemented, he explained that 25 current homeowners had contacted the city asking for help with nuisance deer on their properties.

“I think such an emotional issue like this should have been publicized more. There is clearly more people against this than the 25 they mentioned that are for it,” Clawson said. “And what I would like to see happen today because all of us seem to have moved up here for the nature and wildlife, is to bring it back into a council meeting.”

Elk Ridge residents and city officials talking about the new deer mitigation program that kills some deer. (KSL TV)

When responding to allegations that the City Council quietly passed the urban deer mitigation program to avoid backlash, Haddock said it was never a secret.

“We followed state code. We didn’t do it behind closed doors, it was a public meeting, and it was properly noticed,” he told KSL TV.

Haddock said he made himself available for Tuesday’s gathering at Shuler Park to address the misinformation circulating on Facebook about the program and to hear from residents upset about it.

“Things were getting too heated (online), a lot of personal attacks, a lot of threats, and I wanted to put an end to that and let them vent and put some facts in with the emotions,” he said.

“My question for the mayor is what drove this, who pushed it, why wasn’t it made more clear when so many people appear to be against it,” asked Michael Ahyou, Elk Ridge resident.

And after hearing close to two hours of comments, Haddock agreed to take the urban deer mitigation issue back to several city council members for discussion.

“We’ll have a meeting and hash it again,” he said.

Haddock said he’d need to give a 24-hour notice of the meeting before it can happen, and he would like to have DWR involved. In the meantime, the mitigation efforts will move forward, and he’s asked residents to follow the city’s ordinance that was passed in the spring directing them to stop feeding the deer and treated them like pets.

“I didn’t want to point any fingers or throw any stones, but we do have an ordnance now not to feed the wildlife,” he said. “Because when they’re feeding together, their noses are together and spread disease. It happens a lot faster than would normally happen in the wild.”

Haddock said notice of any upcoming special city council meeting to discuss the urban deer mitigation will be posted on the city’s website.

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Elk Ridge city officials address new lethal deer mitigation program