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Petitioning Gastonia City Council and Recreation Advisory Commission

Approve Urban Archery for Gastonia

Across the nation and particularly in urban areas, the number of deer is increasing at an alarming rate. This increase is due to the lack of effective predation and is causing starvation and disease among deer populations, a dramatic increase in homeowner and city property damage, as well as a growing number of car accidents and fatalities over the last decade. In Gastonia alone since 2009, the number of accidents has more than doubled to 33 incidents by 2013. Just recently on November, 30 2013, a Gaston County man was killed in a two car accident caused by a deer. To date there has not been a single urban archery-caused accident ever reported in North Carolina (including any involving pets). Meanwhile deer hunting provides a significant opportunity for people to feed themselves and others through existing, legally sanctioned deer donation programs to individuals and food banks. Ultimately, urban archery provides the only free and viable deer population management technique working today. Let's help Gastonia join so many other progressive municipalities across North Carolina (Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Durham, Huntersville, Concord, Kannapolis, etc.) and the country (Atlanta, San Jose, CA/Silicon Valley, Dallas, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Kansas City, etc.) that have already adopted a safe and effective urban hunting program to positively impact public safety and health, reduce city and landowner property damage, feed the hungry (one deer on average provides 160 meals) and ultimately help the overall herd itself to thrive.

If you would like to join with us, please electronically sign this petition on the right. If you are able, please also print the letter below- adding your own personal experiences if possible- and then sign and mail to our Gastonia officials as follows:

Attention: Gastonia City Council and Recreation Advisory Commission
181 South St
Gastonia, NC 28052

The exploding number of deer in Gastonia is a real problem, and urban archery is a free and viable approach for our community. Please review these supporting facts and statistics to better understand our situation and this approach to herd management:

§  Across US, NC and Gastonia deer populations are exploding:

      o    "...the population of white-tailed deer in the U.S. is larger today than it was when Columbus sailed the ocean blue." -Kurt VerCauteren, Scientist, National Wildlife Research Center.

      o    In the early 1900s the deer population was counted in the low hundreds of thousands, and deer were even extinct or endangered in many states. The collective effort since then to restore the deer population in the US has been one of the most successful wildlife management actions ever taken, succeeding beyond anyone's wildest imaginings. Today reasonable estimates put the US white-tailed deer population at 32+ million and growing fast.

      o    NC’s current deer population is around 1.1 million+ already and continuing to grow rapidly.

      o    Wildlife biologists estimate that a single acre can carry on average a maximum capacity of 20 to 30 deer per square mile (dpsm).

      o    In key urban areas across North Carolina, as early as 2005 major counties were far surpassing that carrying capacity. By 2010 many counties such as Wake were seeing astronomical figures such as 70 dpsm.

      o    Our neighbor, Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, was already seeing as much as 44 dpsm by 2005. By 2010 they were off the chart with a “red” rating similar to Wake, Caswell and many other counties near urban areas.

      o    Gaston County was already passing the maximum carrying capacity way back in 2005, seeing as much as 29 dpsm by then.

      o    By 2010, our figure had already grown to as much as 44 dpsm, following in the footsteps of Charlotte-Mecklenburg as their deer population explodes and spills over.

      o    Based on the most recent 5 years of deer-related accident data in Gastonia, we see a clear trend in the same direction. It would be perfectly reasonable for us to expect Gaston County to join those NC counties that are firmly in the red zone- off the NC Wildlife dpsa charts so to speak.

§  This is causing undue suffering, disease and starvation in the deer herds:

      o    Regardless of one’s view of hunting, we can all agree that a deer dying slowly and painfully from a car wreck, starvation and/or by disease is simply cruel versus ethically culling the herd through hunting. This is not even considering that more and more baby deer are being eaten alive by coyotes as a result.

      o    As a case in point about starvation, reports came back from initial urban bow hunts in Durham’s Duke Forest (hunts used to manage the completely out-of-control deer population) that revealed deer so emaciated that there was no actual meat on them to eat.

§  This is also causing massive and increasing damage to people, and growing public safety and health issues:

      o    In 2004 alone, there were 15,000 deer-related car accidents in NC, with 9 fatalities.

      o    In the four-year period 2009-2012 there were 20 deer-related car fatalities and 3,500 injuries in NC.

      o    In 2012 alone there were 20,181 deer-related car accidents in NC, or 35% growth from 2004.

      o    There is a strong correlation between growth in deer populations and growth in certain dangerous disease such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Fever. Overpopulated deer herds contribute to an increased tick population. Deer act as hosts for ticks which carry these diseases common in NC.

      o    There is a CDC-confirmed 69% Lyme disease growth rate in NC between the years 2008-12.

      o    In 2012 alone, the CDC reported 598 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in NC, including the first death (a child) in NC since 2009.

      o    Fast-growing deer herds simply equate to more hosts for ticks which in turn increases the likelihood that people within Gastonia and other city limits- where deer populations are exploding- have a greater likelihood of contracting these serious diseases.

      o    As a real-life example of this, one of the things that prompted Durham, NC to action was an outbreak of Lyme disease due in part to the soaring deer populations, where they saw as much as 50-70 dpsa per acre.

      o    Just recently, on November 30th 2013, we have the most tangible and heart-breaking evidence of the consequences of doing nothing. A Gaston man died as the result of a two-car accident caused by a collision with a deer- right on Dallas Cherryville Highway.

§  This is also causing massive and increasing cost to cities and taxpayers:

      o    Insurance companies estimate that each deer-related accident causes damages that start at $3,000 and commonly go to $6,000 dollars and often much more.

      o    In the three-year period 2009-2012, NCDOT estimates damages related to deer-car collisions of $144 million in NC.

      o    During 2004-2006, property damage estimates related to deer were about $107 million in NC.

      o    Estimates are that deer also cause $30 million in damages each year to farmer's crops in NC.

      o    In 2013 alone, the Gastonia Police Department reported that officers were called to deer-car collision sites (all within city limits) 33 times. The rate of growth from 2009 to 2013 more than doubled from 16 to 33 (106% growth). We also had an even worse spike in 2012: 45 accidents or 187% growth from 2009.

§  Are there other methods to accomplish the same goal of effectively managing the deer herd?

      o    Outside of urban archery, there are a variety of techniques that people have tried. All of them have significant and ongoing costs associated with them, and many are highly experimental in nature. They include:

            *  Anti-fertility vaccinations, via rifle; Approx. cost: $1,000+ per deer (temporary)

            *  Capturing and relocating deer; Approx. cost: $150 to $500 per deer

            *  Hire a sharpshooting company; Approx. cost: $200 to $600 per deer (guns in city limits)

            *  Fencing off hundreds of areas; Approx. cost: $365 to $882 per fence (deer can jump 8 to twelve feet or more as needed in flight situations)

            *   Deer repellant; Approx. cost $25 to $45 per application (plus labor and its temporary)

      o    People often wonder about the possibility of the growth in natural predators or even the introduction of further natural predators. In our area of the country, this generally means coyotes, a highly undesirable addition to our local cities and towns, especially in the numbers we are already seeing them.

      o    Even with natural predators such as coyotes (whose numbers are on the rise due to the lack of hunting pressure on them as well), as an overall herd deer still out-produce them at an alarming rate. This dynamic actually increases the coyote population due to so much food (deer and other animal babies etc.) being available.

      o    Compare all of these options with urban archery: Once adopted, the taxpayer cost of offering urban archery is zero ($0). This effectively drives down numbers of deer and improves the health of the herd, while simultaneously driving local commerce (through the many hunting-related activities/purchases) and enabling people to feed theirs and others’ families.

§  Isn’t this just taking the life of an innocent deer?

      o    Without getting into a debate about hunting itself, we know for a fact that many of the deer that would be harvested will die one way or the other. If it is not by hunters then much more slowly and painfully by our cars, and more often and more cruelly by disease and/or starvation.

      o    Even worse, the current situation causes an increase in unwanted pest predators like coyotes that simply eat the young of their prey (e.g. they eat baby deer, they eat turkey eggs and so forth).

§  Is this a proven technique, and what other places have already implemented it?

      o    Urban archery is the only completely free option that at the same time safely and definitely drives deer numbers down within city limits. This is a program that by definition positively impacts the very real public safety and public health issues at hand, but in a fiscally and ethically responsible way.

      o    As one example, Atlanta’s urban archery program has already accomplished the holding of deer-car collisions steady, compared to the rapid increase of accidents that cities and states including NC are experiencing by doing nothing.

      o    For the same reasons, dozens of major US cities have adopted urban archery seasons. Some examples are:

                  -Atlanta, Dallas, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Des Moines, San Jose (Guns for boar!)

      o    44 NC cities are already doing this successfully, some examples are:

                  -Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Durham, Huntersville, Concord, Kannapolis, Weddington and 37 others

§  Is urban archery safe?

      o    Right up and through 2014, the NC Wildlife Commission reports zero (0) accidents ever caused by urban archery to innocent bystanders (or pets).

      o    Since Atlanta implemented urban archery, not one person has been harmed by it, and no pets have been mistaken for deer.

      o    As a whole, bow hunters take their craft very seriously. For example, one study recognizes that bow hunters spend twice as much time preparing to bow hunt as they do actually bow hunting.

      o    All hunters in NC must have required training and certification through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission before even being able to obtain a hunting license.

      o    Additionally, bow hunters are hunting downward from elevated stands and a bow and arrow has a tiny fraction of the velocity of a bullet, and only has an effective range of about 35 yards.

 §  Are there other benefits?

      o    Hunting is empowering women. There is a massive influx of women in hunting in general and bow hunting in particular. As a demographic, women are the fastest growing segment of hunting, in many cases by a very significant factor. What is the next largest growth demographic in hunting? It is the younger generations who are recognizing the value of knowing where their food comes from, and that it is healthy and locally sourced.

      o    One deer can provide as many as 200 locally sourced, naturally organic, healthy meals to feed one’s own family as well as Gastonia’s hungry. The average is 160 meals per deer.

      o    There are clear regulations in NC enabling hunters to document and donate their deer to individual families in need, as well as directly to local processors in partnership with programs such as Hunters for the Hungry and Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry. This meat is then donated directly to food banks and ministries helping to care for Gastonia’s families in need.

      o    Adopting urban archery enables individuals who may be in need, and who are able to bow hunt, to provide food for their own families to offset their food expenses in a healthy way while reducing the strain on city services.

      o    Hunting drives local commerce in unique ways through the purchase of licenses and equipment as well as food, lodging, gas and more related to outings.

      o    As a whole, deer hunters are the world’s largest group of conservationists and contribute more to wildlife and land preservation than any other organization. Through the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act there is an 11% excise tax on equipment, and 100% of the revenue from licenses and game tags go towards the individual state advancing wildlife preservation and restoration. This makes literally billions of dollars available for use at the state and federal levels.

      o    All publicly owned land is funded by hunters through the Pittman-Roberson Act. Without hunters, there would not even be a fraction of the amount of protected land for non-hunters to bird watch, hike, and play.

      o    Hunters as a whole are a reverent group that respect the animals they harvest and as mentioned previously, they use the meat they obtain to either help feed their own families or for donating it to people in need through well-established, legally sanctioned programs.

The reality is that ordinances such as those in Gastonia that currently prohibit even archery hunting within city limits have in effect created giant sanctuaries that attract deer, and where deer populations are exploding unchecked and unregulated. Meanwhile hundreds of landowners within Gastonia city limits have 2 acres or more that cannot be hunted due to these local ordinances which do not permit the discharge of any weapon, including a bow and arrow.

This petition is not a simple request to hunt as a pastime, but rather it comes out of necessity due to the fact that at least as far back as 2005 deer were already becoming significantly overpopulated within Gastonia city limits. With this overpopulation comes a set of real public safety hazards including disease (Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other tick-borne illnesses); more car wrecks, deaths, and injuries; and significant damage to citizen property and to farmer’s crops.

Leveraging humans and urban archery within city limits is simply the most practical, quiet, safe and cost-effective way of managing the deer population. It is uniquely effective at impacting public safety, public health and taxpayer dollars as proven across North Carolina and the United States. When you combine this with the reality that through urban archery the deer are not wasted- that we are empowering families to feed themselves and others, many of whom are experiencing hunger even today- it becomes clear that despite any possible objection to hunting itself, this is the most responsible course of action for any city experiencing radical deer overpopulation.

When we add to it all that as a city, through this program, we will be able to serve our area by opening the way for the donation of literally thousands of healthy, naturally organic and locally sourced meals to the hungry via food banks and other local organizations, we can know that we support a truly worthy endeavor.

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