GALENA, Ill. — Despite efforts to curb the local deer population, incidents involving deer in Galena are on the rise.
Galena City Council members this week reviewed the results of the city’s 2020-2021 deer hunting program, which allows for the culling of deer on select properties within city limits.
From Oct. 1 to Jan. 17, people who were permitted to hunt within city limits culled 24 deer. Although city officials increased the number of approved hunters from 27 in the 2019-2020 hunting season to 30 for 2020-2021 season, the number of deer culled in the recently completed season was smaller than in the prior year, when 30 deer were killed.
Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said about 20 of the permitted hunters actually participated in the hunting program, 11 of whom managed to cull at least one deer.
City leaders started the deer hunting program in 2018 after discovering that the local deer population was 136, far exceeding Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ estimated normal population size of 40 to 80. Since the program’s inception, hunters have culled a total of 76 deer.
Despite these efforts, the city’s deer population has risen. The most recent deer count in January 2020 put the local population at 200. Moran said the 2021 deer count likely won’t be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, Galena police have reported an increase in deer-related incidents, including car accidents and destruction of property. A total of 38 incidents were reported in 2018, compared to 49 deer-related incidents in 2020.
Despite those trends, Moran said city officials still largely see the program as a successful one.
“If we didn’t have the hunting program in place, it would be even higher,” Moran said. “We have good coverage now with the hunters we have.”
Galena City Council members also expressed their support for the program.
Mayor Terry Renner said he believes city leaders will need to commit to the effort for several years in order for deer-related incidents to decrease.
“I think we’ll keep trying to weed them out while we can,” Renner said. “We were hoping that accidents would go down, but we’ll just need to keep working at it.”
Council Member Marc McCoy said he believes weather conditions during the recent hunting season deterred many hunters from participating.
“We had hunters that didn’t participate,” McCoy said. “We’d like to see the numbers go down, but with what we have, we’re on the best path that we can be on at this point.”
Moran said city officials will likely discuss the program’s renewal this summer and that city staff would recommend minimal changes.