All of Montana’s cities have urban deer, but only Helena has a systematic approach to controlling the deer population through trapping and culling. Helena Police Captain Troy McGee says the city works with Fish and Game to try to keep the urban deer population at just 25 per square mile.

“We do a survey once a year and send it to Fish and Game, they analyze it and try to figure out approximately how many they would like to remove to keep it at 25 deer per square mile,” McGee said. This year they’ve indicated around 175 to 225 deer need to be removed, we won’t remove that many, we just don’t have enough time.”

The program began in 2008. McGee says at the time, a few pet dogs had been killed by aggressive deer and even people had been attacked. He expects police to harvest around 150 deer this year. Traps have been set for the past two weeks and he says about 27 deer have been harvested so far.

“We do our deer removal between the end of November and end of March,” McGee said. “We basically set up what are called clover traps, in a clover trap the deer step inside to get feed and then you collapse the trap on top of them, the people who we have assigned kill the deer on scene with a bolt gun, like meat packers use.  The deer is removed immediately and processes, we take it to a local butcher here who processes it for the Helena Food Share.”

McGee says the program has removed close to 1,000 deer since 2008 and donated about 30,000 pounds of meat to the local food bank.