Deer hunt in town of Elizabeth on Tuesday agenda; town says deer population is out of control

ELIZABETH, Colo. - Elizabeth resident Terrill Gilbert's front porch is full of color, in spite of the deer that frequently dine here.

"They eat everything they can get their mouths around," said Gilbert. "They eat your flowers. They come up on my deck and eat the hanging baskets. They do what they want."

The town of Elizabeth is dealing with a major overpopulation of deer. There are estimated to be more than 200 deer that have taken up residence in the small Elbert County town.

Tuesday night, the Elizabeth Board of Trustees will take up the issue at their regularly scheduled meeting. Town administrators are recommending a limited bow hunt in town limits to help control the population.

Elbert County is also dealing with the same issue. The county commissioners recently sent a letter to Colorado Parks and Wildlife asking for direction.

Gilbert supports a plan to thin the herd in town with a bow hunt.

"I think it's a good idea," said Gilbert.

Just a few streets over, Norma Emerson isn't so convinced.

"I believe it's a very bad plan," said Emerson. "We love living here because of the wildlife out here."

But Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the deer in Elizabeth are becoming so habituated, they really aren't "wild" anymore.

"When you're feeding the animals, you're really not honoring them. You're taking the wild out of that life," said Jennifer Churchill with CPAW.

After months of research, and growing concerns of deer spreading disease, causing traffic accidents and being a general nuisance, town administrators are recommending the implementation of an urban bow hunt.

"It's the most practical plan in terms of cost," said town administrator Dick Eason. "It's also the most acceptable to Colorado Parks and Wildlife."

To be clear, the hunters will not be walking up and down town streets. Rather, the hunt will take place at three town-owned open spaces, likely at night when most residents are sleeping.

"These will be very clean kills," said Churchill. "These are not kid's target arrows. These are arrows that are intended to kill an animal as quickly and painlessly as possible."

CPAW said all the meat from those deer killed will be donated, and only licensed and trained hunters will be allowed to participate.

The Elizabeth Board of Trustees could vote on the deer crossbow hunt Tuesday night. The proposal is on the agenda.

"I think it could be done very safely," said Churchill. "Most archery hunters are taking their shots at 40 yards or less."

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