Deer sightings up around Ely

by Tom Coombe
At least in some parts of Ely, it’s becoming more and more common to encounter deer, sometimes many of them.
Citizens and city officials are taking notice, but they’re wrestling with how to deal with an at-times troublesome dilemma.
At least for now, it doesn’t appear that there’s support for a deer hunt in the city limits.
“Our community, our square footage is so small and there’s so much private land and not a lot of public land where we could safely do a hunt,” said police chief Chad Houde.
Council member Paul Kess raised the issue Tuesday after hearing “from five distinct people, each of them talked to me about the overpopulation of deer.”
Kess said he has encountered an aggressive doe in his neighborhood on Boundary Street, while it’s become commonplace to see deer in yards and crossing the streets and avenues in various neighborhoods.
“There are more and more deer (and) I wanted to bring it up as an awareness issue,” said Kess.
Kess said he understood a deer hunt “is problematic because we are largely private property.”
Council member Jerome Debeltz said that talk of a limited deer hunt in Ely has come up previously but has failed to take hold.
Houde said some of the issues could be attributed to people who are feeding deer in town.
Clerk-treasurer and operations director Harold Langowski agreed and pointed to an east end area where as many as 10 deer have been hit by vehicles.
“Folks that like to feed deer, that’s what causing most of the issue,” said Langowski. “Deer are going to go where it’s easiest to find food.”
Houde said that during the winter he has seen as many as 20 deer running across Shagawa Lake and entering town.
Some other communities in Minnesota have allowed limited deer hunts but Houde questioned if it could be done in Ely.
“I’m not suggesting or recommending that we have a hunt,“ said Houde.
But he pointed to communities such as Ortonville and Grand Rapids that allow deer hunting in town and said “this is just me talking. There’s the west end down by the water treatment plant. By the college a wooded area there. We are pretty condensed in the town of Ely where I don’t think it would be safe at this time. But I’m not saying it’s undoable.”
Houde said there “are other solutions” for residents who are encountering deer in their yard or walking through gardens, such as purchasing deer repellent at local hardware stores.