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Helena culling operation aims to reduce urban deer population

Deer in front lawn
Posted at 8:27 AM, Nov 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-28 10:28:13-05

HELENA — Montana wildlife managers and the city of Helena have started setting traps for the annual deer culling operation.

To help reduce overpopulation, deer culling kills off part of the population, minimizing the risk of damage caused and diseases spread by deer.

"These are amazing animals. I respect them greatly. They're beautiful, and it's a privilege to get to live around them and be with them," said Helena Police Department's Urban Wildlife Animal Control Officer Sean McCarthy. "But, with anything, we have the ability as humans to help manage a healthy population."

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks target number of deer for this year is the same as last year at 250.

Since Thanksgiving week, Helena Animal Control has set 12 traps and has killed five or six deer.

Deer Trap

To ensure the animal is euthanized humanely, once trapped McCarthy and his partner use a bolt gun, which shoots a self-contained rod rather than multiple shots.

"By the time my partner and I get to the trap, and we start our process, it is seconds when that deer realizes there is something going on to when it is dead. It is really important to my partner and I that we focus on making sure that the deer are not harassed or that the euthanasia is prolonged in any reason or for any reason," McCarthy said.

Along with reducing overpopulation in deer, deer culling allows FWP to study the animals for diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease or track the spread of ticks.

Deer culling will wrap up on the first of March, and the meat from the deer will be processed by Old Salt and donated to the Helena Food Share.