City of Pittsburgh to implement Deer Management Pilot Program

If you’ve wandered around campus in the evening or night hours, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a deer somewhere on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, especially in the area near Schenley Park. Pittsburgh as a whole is facing a deer population problem: there are too many of them.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Pittsburgh currently has about 51 deer per square mile, but it set a more desirable number at 10 per square mile.

The Deer Management Pilot Program is a cooperative effort between the City of Pittsburgh and the USDA to hold archery-controlled hunts in both Frick and Riverview Parks during the 2023-2024 deer archery season.

Those who were interested in taking part in the Pilot Program could enter into a lottery system, from which 30 archers will be chosen. Notably, archers who want to participate in the program must be a resident of Allegheny County, have a clean criminal background check and Pennsylvania Game Commission record, and have purchased a 2B Antlerless Tag (2B is the area containing Pittsburgh).

If selected, the archer must pass an accuracy test and will be assigned a specific location within Frick or Riverview Park where they will be permitted to hunt. However, there are a few stipulations. Every archer is required to kill a doe first, which must be donated to a food bank program. Additionally, the program forbids archers for gutting on-site. They must also stay at least 50 yard away from any occupied structures, including schools, playgrounds, and homes.

Frick and Riverview Parks were chosen as the two pilots for the program since they experience the worst deer overpopulation, but if the program is successful, they could be expanded to other parks. Though there is generally a ban on hunting in city parks, the Pittsburgh City Council approved a bill from Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration to grant an exception for these hunters.

During the hunting program, the pilot parks will be closed to prevent potential hunting accidents. According to Lisa Frank, the City of Pittsburgh’s chief operating and administrative officer, information from this year’s pilot program will hopefully lead to a citywide rollout of a deer management program.

So why is this controlled hunt happening now? According to the Deer Management Pilot website, the large deer population has "exasperated their food source, limiting native vegetation’s ability to root and regenerate.” It also notes that more deer have been wandering outside the forest, which has caused an increase in car-deer collisions and “unnatural aggression toward pets and people.”

A study from the National Insurance Crime Bureau between 2014-2017 noted that Pennsylvania had the most animal loss claims during that time (145,728) and Pittsburgh had the fourth-most animal loss claims (2,115) during that same time period. In 2021, Pittsburgh’s Animal Care and Control removed 510 deceased deer from the streets.

Deer populations double every two to three years at an exponential rate. This is one of the main reasons why the City of Pittsburgh is requiring that archers take a doe first. A doe produces one to three fawns each year and can breed at the age of six months. By focusing on limiting the doe population, the City will better be able to control how many deer are born.

One objection to the methods being employed by the City is the “violent” approach of killing the deer. The Humane Society of the United States sent a letter to the city to consider other non-violent methods. One option could be administering fertility control shots using darts to the deer population, like GonaCon. However, it is not currently registered for use in Pennsylvania.

The program will be active through the Allegheny County hunting season: Sept. 16 - Nov. 24 and Dec. 26 - Jan. 27, 2024.