Residents say prevention is best defense against Missoula urban deer

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MISSOULA,Mont. - Urban deer are a common sight in many Missoula neighborhoods. While some residents are asking what the city going to do about the issue, others enjoy having them around.

"The deer don't really bother us, because we have our back yard fenced off, and the fence is high enough they can't get in here," said Jaime Spaulding, a South Hills resident.

Spaulding has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 50 years and understands some residents may want to take action.

According to a memo from the Missoula city attorney, any city plan to control urban deer must be approved by Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Mike Thompson, a regional wildlife manager, understands people's frustrations. He says we do live in Montana and urban deer will be a problem, but we can do things to help the deer move along and not stay on your property.

"If you fence your gardens -- I know it's expensive -- but if people could do that it sure would help animals from moving on to a better habitat," Thompson said.

But retired Police Chief Donald Millhouse believes development is affecting the deer's habitat.

"We're invading their space; they aren't invading ours," said Millhouse. Millhouse went on to say if you build cages around your plants and fence off your backyard the deer will leave you alone.

Helena had a similar problem with urban deer. Their solution was to shoot and kill deer and donate the meat to the Helena Food Share.

Millhouse doesn't want that to happen here in Missoula. "I hope we don't solve the problem here the way Helena had solved theirs. It doesn't sound humane to me."

When the issue was raised in 2015 City Council said a plan would be too expensive.

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