GALENA, Ill. — Galena officials recently voted to continue a deer hunting program in the city limits after reviewing results showing the local deer population is in decline.

Galena City Council members this week reviewed the results of the special hunting program, through which 30 deer were culled in 2019 and 2020. The program allows for specially permitted residents to hunt deer on designated properties within city limits.

A helicopter count performed Jan. 30 showed the deer population within city limits has declined to 200, compared to 211 deer counted in 2019. This marks the first time the deer population has decreased since the city’s deer hunting program was implemented in 2018.

“We would have liked to have got more, but we improved from last year,” said Mayor Terry Renner. “It’s moving ahead slowly and safely.”

The city expanded its deer hunting efforts for the most recent hunting season after the previous hunt, which saw the culling of 22 deer.

City officials increased the number of hunters from 12 to 27 and designated 11 hunting sites in the city limits.

Casey Lange, who has hunted in both years of the program, said it’s not hard to find deer to hunt in the city limits.

“There’s quite a few deer in the area,” Lange said. “It wasn’t much of a challenge to get one.”

City officials started the program to reduce deer overpopulation, which has caused vehicle crashes and property damage. Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials estimate that a normal deer population for the city should be 40 to 80.

Hunting sites included the city’s wastewater treatment plant property, the city dump, recreation park and some private hunting sites. Participants only were permitted to use archery to hunt deer on the sites.

Renner said problems persist with the deer population. In 2019, Galena police reported 45 deer-related incidents, including collisions with vehicles or deer found deceased.

“We still get complaints from citizens about them eating flowers,” Renner said. “Nothing really scares them, so they walk wherever they want in town.”

Council members voted unanimously to continue the program for the 2020/2021 deer hunting season.

City Administrator Mark Moran said the program largely will be kept the same, though the number of allowed hunters will be reduced to 25. The city also will continue to search for private property owners willing to open their land to hunters.