Fargo Park Board OKs redesigned riverside hunting program – InForum

FARGO — A partially redesigned riverside deer hunting program in Fargo appears headed for approval.

The Fargo Park Board joined the City Commission this week in giving a preliminary OK to the five-month Wildlife Management Program despite objects from two city residents fighting the plan who gathered signature 350s on petitions this past year.

The biggest change is that the Sandhills Archery Club, with a supervisory role from the North Dakota Game & Fish Department, will take over the bulk of the administration of the program.

Under the program, which city commissioners nearly ended last year, there are expected to be four other major changes, park district project manager Craig Bjur told the Park Board.

They are:

  • Removing three nature parks which are outside of the city limits from the program as they don’t fit with the objective of the program to control the urban deer population. The parks are just south of the city and include Orchard Glen, Forest River and Heritage Hills.
  • Increasing tree stand heights from 10 feet to a minimum of 12 feet to help with the downward trajectory of arrows.
  • Using lighted nocks on arrows to make them easier to find after they are shot.
  • Replacing current program signs posted in parks with information about where to find more about the program.

Bjur said a majority of the land in the program is city property, with the rest in the park system.
The park district would still participate in training and program rule classes as well as assist with compliance checks in the field while staff are doing daily maintenance activities, Bjur said.

The program was previously administered by the Fargo Police Department, but they will no longer be participating out of concern for concentrating on policing. Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski proposed ending the program for safety reasons with the city’s growing population and park use.

Bjur said such programs are common throughout the region such as in Minneapolis and Bismarck, as well as cities in Iowa and South Dakota.

When asked if the season to hunt would be shortened from September to Jan. 31, Bjur said that wasn’t being discussed anymore as it would take away from the number of deer that could be harvested.

He said state wildlife officials said the archery program was the most cost-effective way to try to control the urban deer population.

Richard Thomas and Chris Coen, who have been fighting against the program since last year, spoke to the Park Board to express opposition to its continuation.

Thomas and Coen said they had more than 350 signatures on a petition opposing the hunting on city and park property.

In a later interview, Thomas said he was “really surprised the Park Board didn’t take into consideration the input from the 350 people who signed the petition. We were speaking on their behalf.”

He wondered how many signatures they might need.

Thomas also objected to the lack of public input while the new version of the program was being developed.

He said he was happy they were taking the three nature parks out of the program, but said the program will still be in the more densely populated city limits where the parks are more heavily used.

He has heard concerns from mountain bikers and cross-country skiers who use the riverside trails from the north end of the city to the south end.

Thomas also doubts the number of deer reported to be spotted by the 45 hunters who get a permit each year.

He believes some are counted more than once.

The program, which started in 2006, has hunters reporting seeing up to 1,300 deer in the city during the season in an annual year-end survey. However, the number of deer harvested has ranged from 21 to 38 per year in the past decade.

Bjur said the Game and Fish Department hadn’t done a recent survey of the deer population in the area along the river and needed snow to do it.

Park Board Chair Vicki Dawson said she wanted to see what was on the new signs before signing off on the program.

Bjur said no injuries had been reported in its 16 years. Park Board members asked about the wild turkey part of the program, but low harvest counts led to that portion of the program being discontinued.

The revised Wildlife Management Program will go through a review by the city attorney before receiving final approval from the City Commission later this summer.

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