A riverside setting and overall beauty make the Greenway a special place for Greater Grand Forks residents. Inevitably, those traits also attract wildlife, and especially deer.

A survey conducted by a UND fisheries and wildlife biology student shows the deer population in the Greenway – and thus in the neighborhoods alongside the Greenway – is growing.

According to the study, conducted by Gunnar Patz, most of the respondents who have lived along the Greenway 10 years or more said they’ve seen an increase in deer numbers.

While many may enjoy the presence of wildlife, a growing deer population comes with an increase in car-deer collisions, adverse interactions with pets, and damage to plants and property.

Once that population grows, it’s difficult to reduce it. Numerous cities have experienced this and have responded with all sorts of strategies, including hunting, trapping, fencing and dogs.

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Some Greenway residents who responded to Patz’s survey suggested hunting as a way to control deer. It’s not a unique idea – other communities have undertaken urban hunts, including Rapid City, S.D. There, the parks director considers the program essential to the city’s herd management, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Yet after municipal herd reduction efforts in British Columbia in 2017, a study concluded that it was “an expensive activity having questionable results.”

Here in Greater Grand Forks, we believe it’s too early to talk of urban hunts. The programs can cost serious money, since they often use city staff or professional sharpshooters to cull the herd. In Rapid City, the cost can be $30,000 annually.

For now, the city’s Greenway Technical Committee plans to continue periodic surveys. Trail cameras might be utilized, too.

Accurately determining herd numbers is the best first step. Another would be for the city to consider adding a staff wildlife biologist, since the Greenway will continue to attract wildlife. Of course, this would cost money, too.

Whatever path is taken, a specific strategy eventually must be developed, since the deer population in the city will only continue to grow.