Springfield conservationists hope managed deer hunt will pay off for decades

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Springfield Conservation Nature Center trails will be closed through Monday as bow hunters try to thin out the deer population.

Four hunters will have around 36 hours to kill up to three deer each. They each must kill a doe before they can kill any bucks.

“Our main form of population control before bow hunting which was introduced in a city ordinance in 2014 is that our main [deer] predator was a car, or death, or starvation was our main population control factors,” urban wildlife biologist Ashley Schnake said.

It’s the second straight year that the Springfield Conservation Nature Center has hosted a controlled hunt. Last year, hunters killed nine of 18 allowed deer.

“Right now nine in one year doesn't seem like a lot,” Schnake said. “But, if you think of six does, they have the potential to have 2-3 fawns each. And then their babies have the potential to have 2-3 fawns each.”

Organizers hope this weekend pays off decades down the road. They say they can see the impact the growing deer population has had over the previous few decades.

“They might not see it in five years, but if you look at it in 10 or 15 year spans, there is a drastic change in the habitat,” Schnake said.

“If you'd walked the nature center many years ago, particularly in the spring, you would've seen a lot more flowers than you see now, a lot more understory plants, and a lot of those are just gone now,” Nature Center manager Linda Chorice said. “When you walk out there you can see through the trees a great distance and there's fewer plants on the bottom of the forest floor.”

The four hunters applied for the opportunity this summer. They will be allowed to set up 30 minutes before sunrise and stay until 30 minutes past sunset.

A fifth hunter was selected, but didn’t attend a mandatory educational course.

The Nature Center building will be open for its normal hours Saturday.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.