By Cameron Rasmusson
The city renewed deer hunting and trapping activity at Sandpoint Airport Wednesday night. With any luck, however, it won’t need the program much longer.
An ongoing effort since November 2014, the program allows deer trapping and bowhunting to take place on airport grounds. The goal is to thin out deer populations in the area, which have proven extremely dangerous for aircraft that are landing or taking off. However, if a grant funding for a fence comes through, this may be the last year the program is needed.
The hunting and trapping program began after a few nearly fatal incidents involving airplane and deer collisions. One incident left a plane totaled and the pilot lucky to walk away with his life. Since then, there have been many near-misses with deer sprinting across the runway at the wrong moment.
According to Jim Kaiser, Sandpoint Airport director, the program has been successful at reducing deer populations in the area and have lowered the number of near-miss incidents. While a lack of individuals willing to bowhunt the airport made that aspect negligible, participants successfully trapped seven deer, which resulted in more than 300 pounds of meat being donated to the food bank.
Last year focused on a herd that lived near the center of the runway. With that herd thinned out, the next year will target deer on the ends of the runway. Kaiser is hopeful the wooded areas at those locations will attract more bowhunters into the mix. As with last year, the use of firearms or more powerful projectile weapons are disallowed in the area.
Kaiser believes this will be the last year the program is needed. Once money is secured, a long-awaited perimeter fence will be installed around the region designed to keep deer out once and for all. Originally envisioned as a project funded through the Federal Aviation Administration, the perimeter fence wasn’t expected to be in the cards until 2019. However, a Community Development Block Grant program may expedite the process, in which case construction will begin in spring of next year with an expected completion in summer.