FORT MITCHELL, Ky. -- Like many Northern Kentucky communities, Fort Mitchell is locking horns with a burgeoning deer population and the consequences of that population boom.
"They’re actually kind of hard to keep out of the yard," said Fort Mitchell resident Martha Maier.
Deer may be largely passive herbivores, but they can still have a damaging impact on surrounding areas when their numbers aren’t kept in check. Too many deer grazing can wreak havoc on local ecology, according to the Ecological Society of America, and too many deer trying to cross the road near populated areas can mean any uptick in car wrecks - some of which will be deadly.
Kentucky’s close neighbor Ohio saw 21,061 deer-vehicle crashes in 2015, according to the Ohio Insurance Institute. 801 of those resulted in a human injury. Four resulted in a human death.
What can Fort Mitchell do, then, about the deer dilemma? The solution is one Katniss Everdeen might endorse.
At a recent Fort Mitchell City Council meeting, Mayor Jude Hehman toyed with the idea of arming off-duty police officers with a bow and arrows and allowing those officers to hunt deer. The officers in question would need to obtain permits and permission from the owner of the land on which they wished to hunt.
Dan Schabell, a deer conservation advocate who also serves as the archery chair for Campbell County Game and Fish, said Hehmnan’s plan could be right on target.
The problem, according to Schabell, is that the deer’s natural habitats are being developed and leaving the animals with little available space in which to live. When human civilization pushes up too closely against nature, the proximity can cause problem for living things in both environments.
“(The deer) have to go somewhere, so they’re causing a little bit of a problem, I guess,” said Schabell, who has practiced archery as a hobby for years.
Schabell said that the city might also attempt to thin out the deer population by setting traps or tranquilizing and then transporting animals who wander into the city. He believes, however, that using a bow and arrow is the most ethical way to reduce the deer’s numbers.
“It is a humane way (of population control) with someone who is skilled at it,” he said.