Helena's Deer Domination

700 habituated deer own the state capital

We often see deer as silent, demure creatures who spring about the woods with quiet elan. Wrong: They're stone cold gangstas.

At least, the urban population of deer in Helena, Mont. are. Officials are grappling with how to deal with the 700-plus estimated deer that have made their home in the state's capital city. Many of them were born here and display no fear of humans or cities; as such, they practically run the place as they see fit and occasionally terrorize the local populace with impunity. Deer continually harass dogs and drivers, chow down on gardens, leap on top of roofs, and even chase paper boys.

If left alone, biologists estimate these antlered Crips will grow in membership to 1,200 by 2010. But regulators can't simply hunt them down to leave "Bambi dying in the streets," as one regulator delicately put it. Instead, the Helena Police Department has employed a distinctly Anton-Chigurh-ian method to cull the population:

Officers bait large net traps, called clover traps, with apples, grain and molasses. Adult deer caught in the traps are killed instantly with a bolt gun, similar to the device used to kill cows in slaughterhouses. The animals are then taken to a state Fish, Wildlife and Parks center, butchered and their meat donated to the needy.

No word on whether the traps utter "call it" coolly before offing their captives. Either way, the measure remains controversial, as many Montanans see the deer as a benefit of mountain living, despite the potential for dangerous encounters. Paper boy Zach Lukenbill probably has a less charitable view: A buck chased him under a truck, where it held him hostage for 20 minutes before leaving (probably to keep its does in line).

Maybe, if left to their own devices, the deer will form their own factions and eventually implode on themselves, bringing down their own street dynasty. We'll have to weather some extreme ungulate-on-ungulate violence, but eventually the hood will bloom again—just like in New Jack City.

— Ted Alvarez

Urban Deer Culled in Montana Capital (NY Times)