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Pittsburgh plans to expand deer bowhunting program to Schenley, Highland & Emerald View parks

Two deer in the woods during fall.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is planning to expand a limited deer hunting season to three additional city parks this fall. The announcement came as city officials touted the success of an earlier pilot bowhunting program in Frick and Riverview parks.

According to a report released Wednesday, city-sanctioned archers killed 108 deer from the end of September through January. The effort was an attempt to better manage an exploding deer population. And officials say it worked well enough to launch similar hunts in Schenley, Emerald View and Highland Parks this September.

“I’ve heard from residents from all across the city about their concerns with the growing number of deer and the impact they are having in our parks,” said Mayor Ed Gainey in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work of our Park Rangers, and the collaboration with the USDA, this program was a tremendous success.”

Of the 108 deer captured by the archers during the pilot program, nearly half were donated to a local food bank. That translated to 9,440 meals, according to city. Officials also said that there were no public safety incidents reported in connection with the program, a record they attributed in part to the fact that archers had to pass a skill test before being permitted to hunt.

But the city's two-page report did acknowledge room for improvement.

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Residents voiced concerns about seeing bloodied deer near trails in Frick and Riverview parks during the pilot program. As a result, the city is now recommending hunters pack a tarp “to assist with removal of the deer to prevent public upset.”

Another update to the program will require a field dressing station within the park that archers can utilize. During the pilot, hunters were prohibited from gutting or dressing deer in the parks, and were required to take the animal off-site before harvesting.

The program will also now limit the number of hunters assigned to each park to 10. Previously, as many as 15 archers were allowed in Riverview or Frick parks, though officials noted that it was unlikely that all hunters would go out at the same time.

Another change recommended in the report requires a formal substitution policy for archers who can no longer participate in the program, citing issues like time constraints, running out of deer tags or recovering from an injury.

Other minor changes include setting an age limit of 18 or older, requiring hunters to label their arrows, as well as tree stands and game cameras. The city may also allow archers to hunt from the ground instead of a tree stand this fall.

According to the report, the city plans to begin its next limited archery season in September. Applications for a lottery program will be accepted beginning in May and archers will be selected in June. Selected archers will be subjected to accuracy testing in July.

In the meantime, the city plans to post signs in all five parks over the next several months to alert park goers to the upcoming season. More information can be found on the city’s website.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.