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Iowa City deer population 'a problem,' work continues for management program

Mark Gromko shows damage to the landscaping on his property after deer came and starting eating...
Mark Gromko shows damage to the landscaping on his property after deer came and starting eating the vegetation. He said the damage over the past seasons has costed thousands of dollars. (Aaron Scheinblum, KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Mar. 6, 2019 at 7:00 PM CST
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The deer population in Iowa City is a problem- and experts say the numbers are higher than they have been in the last 20 years.

The city has not had a deer management program since 2010, and now has hit a snag in creating a new program.

With the exception of one year, from 1999 to 2010, the city hired a sharp shooter to reduce the deer population within city limits. The city applied with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' Natural Resource Commission, a seven-person committee appointed by the governor.

From 2010 to 2017, the city did not apply for a sharpshooter with the belief the sharp shooting effectively got the deer population under control. In 2018, with numbers significantly increased from years past, they applied again for a sharp shooter. However, in May 2018 and December 2018, the NRC denied the city's application.

Now some people are frustrated with the pace of the management program's drafting and implementation, and the overpopulation of deer has created costly concerns.

Mark Gromko is one of those frustrated people- he and his neighbors have gone as far as weighing the option of putting up a fence to blockade their landscapes from the deer.

"[It's] very frustrating and angry at times to spend that much money and effort," Gromko said. He and his wife wrote a letter to the city council expressing their concerns after deer starting eating the trees and bushes on their property- causing thousands of dollars worth of damage over the past seasons.

Gromko has lived in Iowa City for nearly a decade, and he and his neighbors have tried just about every remedy to keep the deer away.

"We've tried iron fencing, we've tried netting, we've put some sheets around some of our plantings, we've tried spraying with that very smelly stuff that's supposed to keep deer away," Gromko said. "That hasn't worked at all."

Capt. Bill Campbell with the Iowa City Police Department has been looking into the deer problem, working with the DNR to research what steps the city could take.

"They have been helping us to sort out what type of options the NRC would find acceptable," Capt. Campbell said. "We're hoping that we can at least get the conversation rolling."

Capt. Campbell said those plans are overdue, and understands the frustration as an Iowa City resident.

"We see big bucks that are walking down the street sometimes, it's something that we'll need to address," Capt. Campbell said. "It's a different level than it was even as little as two or three years ago."

City leaders and neighbors like Gromko are hoping for a new management plan, despite the clear damage and frustratingly long wait.

"We've incurred substantial losses that are going to take a re-thinking of how we go about landscaping the property," Gromko said.

Capt. Campbell said recommendations could be sent to the city council in the coming days.