Deer Population Management Project News

FAQ for Deer

Note: The Deer Management Project will conclude for with 2019-2020 winter season on Monday, March 16, 2020. 

Why are the parks closing at 3 p.m.? A consistent closing time prior to sunset, allows for visual site inspection, and allowing time for the areas to quiet following the departure of visitors. This will give sharpshooters ample time to ensure the area is clear for their work and that the deer have repopulated the area.

Why so long? The length of the closure is geared to maximize culling efforts during the sharpshooting phase of the City’s five-year deer management plan. Sites used each day vary based upon weather conditions. Providing a consistent closing time throughout the process allows operations to change frequently without worrying about last minute public notification.

Why Thornberry Off-leash Dog park? Due to deer population estimates and property access issues, this area was chosen by our contractor as a necessary location for culling efforts. Rita’s Ranch Off-leash Dog Park remains open for use. 

Will we be able to access the pedestrian bridge over the Iowa River in the Peninsula Neighborhood during this closure? No. The bridge is part of the park, and will be off limits.

Why use parks to host sharpshooters? In order to maximize culling efforts, the City and its contractor acquired access to a combination of both public and private property for sharpshooting. Successful culling necessitates the use of the park.

Iowa City has signed a contract with White Buffalo, Inc. to sharpshoot during the winter of 2019/2020 to reduce the growing population of deer within City limits. Below is a summary of what has occurred in 2018 to the present.

In February 2018, City Council directed staff to request permission of the Iowa Natural Resources Commission to allow the City to cull the deer herd this upcoming winter by means of sharpshooting.  The City managed its deer population for approximately 10 years by means of sharp shooting from 2000 to 2010.  The Iowa Natural Resources Commission denied the City’s request in May and suggested that the City seek input from the community.  Staff organized an informal committee consisting of staff members and community members to hear from the community at a public forum and to report back to City Council. 

After the community forum, the committee issued a memo to City Council, which is available below. The City Council then directed staff to make a second request to the Natural Resources Commission for permission to sharpshoot and that letter is also available below under "Documents". The City's request was heard by the Natural Resources Commission at its December 13 meeting and was denied.

After that denial, Iowa City officials received a letter from the NRC Chairperson and communicated with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff. From these communications, it is the City's understanding that the NRC will likely approve professionally contracted sharpshooting for one year to decrease the deer population to an NRC-approved density level if some form of public hunt is utilized for the remainder of a five-year plan. This plan would also include public education and annual counts of the deer population.

At the Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 City Council meeting, the Council approved the five-year plan: one year of sharpshooting by White Buffalo Incorporated, followed by four years of public bow hunting. Later that week, the NRC also approved the plan. The exact time and locations of those future bow hunts have yet to be decided. 

Public Input

The community was invited to attend a public input meeting to discuss deer population management  on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, at City Hall, 410 E. Washington St.

City staff presented a short history of the City’s deer management, which is included in the document entitled “Council Information Packet:  Urban Wildlife-Deer.” Tony DeNicola of White Buffalo, Inc. presented the study completed last winter on the estimate of the deer population in Iowa City, which is Exhibit B to the document entitled “Letter to Natural Resources Commission.”  The meeting will was then opened up for comments and questions from the public (limited to 3 minutes per person). 

Watch the public input meeting below:


Deer Management Updates: March 2019

Update: April 2019

Update: May 2019

At the City Council meeting on April 23, 2019, Council directed staff to draft a 5-year deer management plan that will call for professional sharpshooting in year one, followed by four years of non-lethal management efforts. The plan tentatively will be presented to the Iowa Natural Resources Commission at its July 11 meeting. The proposed plan will be presented to Council for approval in late June 2019.

Update: June 2019

Update: August 2019

Update: February 2020

Following the first round of the deer management project, White Buffalo Inc. reported 297 deer were harvested by their sharpshooters. Meat from the deer was tested for diseases by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The meat was then processed, and then given to the food bank at the CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank in Iowa City. In total, about 16,000 pounds of deer meat will be given to the food bank over the coming months.