Mt. Lebanon archery culling has so far killed at least 101 deer |
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Natasha Lindstrom

Recruited and volunteer archers have killed at least 101 deer on public and private lands through Mt. Lebanon's latest controversial attempt at reducing its deer population.

The 6.2-square-mile, densely developed municipality released an update Tuesday on its controlled archery deer hunt that began on Sept. 19.

Pennsylvania's archery deer season runs through Jan. 23.

Mt. Lebanon hired Connecticut-based White Buffalo Inc. to oversee the effort, which involved a combination of hunters vetted and trained by the contractor and independent hunters encouraged to include their kills in the total count.

“I was going to be happy with 50 (deer kills), so I'm actually very pleased,” White Buffalo President Anthony DeNicola said Tuesday.

The three-month kill program cost $15,460 — or about $150 per deer based on the 101 kills reported as of Monday.

The archery hunting is a piece of Mt. Lebanon's broader strategy to cull deer — an issue that has stirred heated controversy among some residents.

“We had folks out there for three months, they killed over 100 deer … and we literally had zero incidents,” DeNicola said. “We didn't have crippled deer running around, no safety issues. All the hype that was brought up was just that.”

White Buffalo's nine screened archers harvested a total of 81 deer, about 83 percent of which were female.

They targeted does to help slow the pace of deer births.

Public spaces targeted included the conservation area at Connor Road and Terrace Drive, McNeilly Park, Robb Hollow Park and wooded portions of Mt. Lebanon's public golf course.

Roughly half of White Buffalo's harvest — 41 deer — were killed on private property with the owner's permission. White Buffalo secured rights to hunt on about 20 properties, selected strategically from about 180 property owners who had expressed interest.

Mt. Lebanon has not released the names of hunters or locations of private properties where deer were hunted, despite an open-records push to do so.

“I'm not opposed to hunting; however, I am opposed to hunting in Mt. Lebanon — and they're not telling us where these places are,” said Elaine Gillen, community blogger and anti-culling activist. She is fighting Mt. Lebanon in an open-records dispute to make public the addresses of culling sites.

Officials in support of deer culling have cited the goals of reducing deer-related car crashes; preventing the spread of Lyme disease; and protecting native vegetation and garden plants from overpopulated and hungry deer.

Next week, DeNicola is set to present information on his wildlife management firm's next deer-culling phase, a controlled sharpshooting hunt.

The commission still has to vote on final approval of the sharpshooter program, which would cost about $81,000 and run Feb. 1 through March 31.

An earlier attempt with a different contractor in March failed to corral and shoot more than six deer — well below the upper limit of 150 in the contract.

Some opponents dispute that Mt. Lebanon has a deer overpopulation problem. Others urge alternatives to culling, such as fertility control.

For its archery hunt, Mt. Lebanon required hunters to donate at least every third deer to Hunters Sharing the Harvest, a statewide program that works with butchers, hunters and food banks to get donated venison to the hungry. White Buffalo's hunters donated 63 deer or 78 percent of their take, totaling an estimated 2,520 pounds.

Among charitable food distributors that benefited: Bethany Presbyterian Church, Jubilee Soup Kitchen, Greater Washington Food Bank, Link in the Chain Ministries, Monongahela Food Bank and West Hills Food Pantry.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514 or [email protected].

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