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- Don't hinder youth sports by criticizing officials (4/8/19)
Few arguments on need to cut deer population
Hunting is getting a lot of attention in the Legislature this session, with committees considering a bill to allow hunting of mountain lions, one to allow farmers to kill one antlerless deer for every $1,000 in crop damage caused by deer and another bill to create a deer donation program to help feed low-income Nebraskans and prison inmates.
Another measure would make the right to hunt, fish and trap part of the Nebraska Constitution, if approved by voters.
The latter is a reaction to potential threats from animal rights groups as more and more of the state's population shifts from the countryside to the cities.
Mountain lion sightings have gone from being dismissed by authorities to front page news, with the appearance of the animals in places like Kearney neighborhoods and points east, but they are still rare enough a hunting season hardly seems warranted.
Deer are another matter, with the average Nebraska driver having a 1 in 109 chance of hitting a deer, according to American Family Insurance.
That translates into thousands of deer collisions a year, millions of dollars in damage, and probably doesn't count the number of deer which are hit and killed and never get reported.
Car and truck drivers won't argue with any measure that would help reduce the number of deer that stray into their paths. Neither will farmers and ranchers in some parts of the state, where deer eat or destroy thousands of dollars in crops every year.
Nor will wildlife management officials who see an association between deer overpopulation and disease.
Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln has sponsored legislation that would create a large-scale program that allows hunters to donate deer meat to feed needy Nebraskans and prisoners.
Hunters would be asked to give part of their permit fees to the Hunters Helping the Hungry Cash Fund, which would be added to other donations to reimburse meat processors who would get the meat ready for consumption to needy Nebraskans and prisoners.
While ranchers, sportsmen, a homeless shelter director and meat processor all testified in favor of the measure, a Game and Parks Commission official noted that the agency already has a deer exchange that costs the state nothing.
A processor, however, said he lost 50 cents to $1.50 per pound for deer he processes for the program, and the paperwork is cumbersome.
We should always be reluctant to start a new program without solid indications that it will accomplish its intent efficiently.
But an overabundance of protein, people willing to harvest, process and distribute it to people who need it, seems like a good combination.