Oh, deer

High deer numbers in 2 Lake Elmo parks prompts fall harvest

Washington County and the city of Lake Elmo are holding deer harvests in early and mid-November to reduce the deer populations at the county’s Lake Elmo Park Reserve and the city’s Sunfish Lake Park. Registration for the LEPR harvest is over and 50 hunters will be selected by the DNR at an Oct. 1 drawing. The city is accepting applications from city residents until Oct. 18 for a lottery to select eight hunters for the Sunfish Lake Park harvest. (Gazette file photo)

LAKE ELMO — Some lucky Lake Elmo deer hunters will not have to go far for their quarry this fall.

The city is conducting a lottery open to Lake Elmo residents only in which eight hunters will be randomly selected to hunt deer Nov. 9-10 in Sunfish Lake Park, said city spokeswoman Alyssa MacLeod.

The city’s harvest is being held in conjunction with a planned deer harvests at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve Nov. 9-10 and Nov. 16-17, said Washington County Parks Manager Mike Polehna. LEPR and Sunfish Lake Park are adjacent to one another, separated by Minnesota 5.

Polehna said it is too late for hunters to register for the Oct. 1 LEPR drawing done by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Polehna added that the LEPR harvest was included in information available to hunters when the DNR starts selling deer hunting licenses in August.

Fifty hunters will be selected by the DNR to harvest deer from three zones in LEPR, Polehna said.

But MacLeod said Lake Elmo residents have until Oct. 18 to enter the city’s lottery for the Sunfish Lake Park harvest. Requirements to enter the city harvest lottery are simple, according to MacLeod.

“They do have to be a city resident. They do have to have a valid (DNR) deer-hunting license and (gun) safety certificate,” she said. Proof of city residency can be a driver’s license with city address or a utility bill, she added.

Both MacLeod and Polehna said all hunters selected for the LEPR and Sunfish Lake Park harvests are required to attend an October training session at the LEPR Nordic Center. Polehna added that LEPR hunters can select the zone they wish to hunt at that meeting.

Polehna said both Washington County and the city of Lake Elmo have cooperated on previous deer harvests, with the last LEPR harvest in 2008. MacLeod said the last Sunfish Lake Park harvest was in 2005.

“We’ve been doing hunts with them for years,” Polehna said referring to Lake Elmo. The main reason is to prevent deer from avoiding the harvest by simply crossing MN 5 between the parks.

Both Polehna and MacLeod said the two harvests are necessary due to the high deer populations in both parks. Polehna said deer counts at LEPR are done by air in February and March.

“We’re at a count of 43 deer-per-square-acre and the typical count is 20 to 25 deer-per-square-acre,” MacLeod said.

It’s roughly 30 (deer) per-square-mile, maybe a little more,” Polehna said about the LEPR deer numbers. DNR wildlife managers say the park should have 15 deer-per-square-mile, he added.

The growing deer population causes several problems in both parks, including over-grazing, destroying young plant growth and causing numerous vehicle-deer accidents on MN 5 in the vicinity of both parks, Polehna said.

Hunters allowed in LEPR will be allowed to harvest more than one deer, depending on the number of deer tags they purchase from the DNR, Polehna said.

Polehna said LEPR hunters are also encouraged to harvest does over bucks as another method of deer population control. Does can give birth to up to three fawns annually, he added.

“Basically, what we’re trying to do is get the deer population down,” he said. “Our job is to take care of the herd. Taking one doe out of a herd is like taking 40 (future deer) out of the herd.”

MacLeod and Polehna said Sunfish Lake Park and LEPR will be closed to public activities during the harvests and signs will be posted several weeks in advance advising residents of the planned harvests.

Contact Erik Sandin at [email protected]