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City may OK bow-hunting of deer on city property near wells

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Elizabeth City officials are considering changing a city ordinance to allow bow hunting inside the city limits but only on city-owned property near Wellfield and Thunder roads.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Elizabeth City might soon allow limited deer hunting in the city limits, in response to wildlife officials' concerns about deer around the city's wells.

City councilors agreed last week to consider changing city ordinances to allow deer hunting — by bow only — on city-owned property near Wellfield and Thunder roads. Once city staff present a draft ordinance to allow hunting, council would have to schedule and hold a public hearing before the ordinance could be approved and take effect.

Current ordinances forbid hunting inside the city, as well as shooting a bow outside of an approved archery range, according to a report from City Manager Rich Olson and police Chief Eddie Buffaloe Jr. Those restrictions seek to protect the public, but they apparently leave few options for dealing with deer on some 400 acres of property around the city's wells.

Olson and Buffaloe said the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission raised the issue in November and December, when city officials were asking for help with coyotes threatening residents’ pets. They said the deer are a fairly isolated population, and have harmful mutations due to inbreeding.

Basing his recommendation on wildlife officials’ input, Buffaloe said it would benefit the local ecosystem to remove the deer.

Olson and Buffaloe are not proposing to allow hunting with guns. That's because the wooded area is close enough to residences to cause concern about stray bullets. Olson noted after the meeting that bows have a much shorter range than rifles or shotguns.

The men said that, under their proposal, any hunter with a state hunting license could apply for a bow-hunting permit from the city, at a cost of $15. Having the permit would allow the person to hunt on the city's property during the normal bow-hunting season for deer. The permit would be valid until the applicant’s hunting license expired.

Olson and Buffaloe’s proposal also states bow hunters would have to be at least 18 years old, and notify the city when they will be hunting. Olson told councilors that was a safety requirement; a hunter could simply call the Elizabeth City Police Department or Central Communications, he said.

While city officials have proposed no limit on how many deer a hunter could take, Olson told council he recommended allowing no more than two hunters on the city property at a time.

Councilor Billy Caudle also suggested last week that, while bow hunters generally don't use dogs, the city's ordinance changes should still specify that hunting with dogs isn't allowed.

In a followup interview Monday, Olson said the hunting proposal will be further discussed during Thursday's finance committee meeting, which will start at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, and, if still supported, at Monday's council meeting.

Olson also said he's not considering any other places where the city would allow hunting.

As for the city’s issue with coyotes, Olson said coyotes have been harassing or attacking some residents’ dogs and cats. The Wildlife Resources Commission and the city are still looking at options to remove them, he said.

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