Why are there deer in the City?

Many urban and suburban environments across the United States, the Midwest, and Iowa experience many of the same deer problems as Iowa City. This is due to a number of factors, including human encroachment on the natural environment, the intentional (and unintentional) feeding of deer, and the elimination of virtually all non-human predators. Due to the use of fertilizers, plants in suburban yards are often more nutrient-rich than food found in the forest, making them ideal and easy food sources for deer. Additionally, deer have a robust reproductive capacity and can realistically double within a span of three or four years.


Why does the City need a Deer Management Plan?

Increased reports of damage to property, resident complaints, and the ecological impacts of deer overabundance are three important reasons the City formed a deer committee to explore deer management options.

A survey conducted by White Buffalo Inc. in 2018, found that deer density levels in Iowa City were estimated to be 80 deer per square mile. According to the Iowa DNR’s guidance, to reduce vegetation/fauna destruction caused by deer, the density of deer should be close to 10 deer per square mile. Assessing whether there is an overabundance of deer is often a question of how many deer a community finds acceptable – the social carrying capacity. Iowa City’s adopted Deer Management Plan establishes a target of 25 deer per square mile.


How was the City’s Deer Management Plan developed?

A full timeline of the development of the deer management plan is available here. In response to resident concerns about deer damage to property, a deer committee was formed comprised of both city staff and community members. The committee held a public forum and public input was also collected via e-mail.

Any proposal to manage/regulate deer must be approved by the Iowa Natural Resources Commission (NRC). Originally, the city’s deer committee submitted a proposal for a year of professional sharpshooting to reduce the deer population. However, this was denied by the NRC and guidance from the DNR indicated its favorability towards a long-term plan that included an urban bow hunt, which is used by many Iowa cities under the DNR’s Deer Management Zones program. The deer committee redeveloped a longer-term deer management plan which incorporated both the public input and the DNR’s guidance. The resulting five-year Deer Management Plan was adopted by City Council and includes one year of professional sharpshooting (2019-2020), four years of urban bow hunts (2020-2024), and ongoing public education about deer management strategies.


What are the results of the 2019-2020 professional sharpshooting season?

The City contracted with White Buffalo Inc., a wildlife management organization to conduct the 2019-2020 professional sharpshooting deer cull. White Buffalo Inc. provided a full report of the cull results in March 2020. Approximately 500 deer were harvested through the sharpshoot. The meat from the deer (estimated to be approximately 30,000 pounds) was tested for safety by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and then processed and donated to the CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank in Iowa City


Where can I learn more about the 2020 – 2021 urban bow hunt?

The parameters for the urban bow hunt are available on the urban bow hunt webpage.


What about sterilization, contraceptives, or relocation?

These methods are often ineffective and costly to carry out on a city-wide level. Additionally, the Iowa DNR must approve a sterilization plan. There are many state Departments of Natural Resources with do not recommend these methods.


How can I prevent damage to my property caused by deer?

Please visit our Education and Non-Lethal Deer Management webpage for tips on living with deer and strategies for mitigating deer nuisance and damage to your property.


How do I submit a suggestion or comment about the City’s deer management plan?

The public is invited to submit suggestions and comments by emailing council@iowa-city.org, submitting written correspondence to Council Members, 410 E. Washington Street, Iowa City, Iowa 52240, or addressing the City Council at regular formal meetings. Individual councilor phone numbers are also available online. Residents who submit public comment must include their full name and should be aware that all correspondence addressed to the City Council becomes a permanent public record and is archived by the City.

City Government