By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– It might surprise North Liberty residents to learn that a certain amount of hunting is legal within their own city limits.
Or it was, until the law was inadvertently taken off the books.
It caught city officials off guard to learn that an ordinance adopted in October 2003 allowing people to hunt geese and antlerless deer with bows and arrows inside the city limits had been removed from the city’s Code of Ordinances when the document was recodified in recent years.
The 2003 statute said people could hunt geese with shotguns and antlerless deer with bows and arrows inside the city limits
City Administrator Ryan Heiar said the city has been issuing such permits all along, and when a citizen emailed to voice concerns about someone hunting inside the city, North Liberty city personnel tried to find the code allowing it.
They couldn’t, because it had gone missing.
The current code states it is unlawful to discharge firearms of any kind within the city limits except by written consent of the council. The previous code also contained an exception for bow hunting of antlerless deer and shotgun hunting of geese, permitted during periods designated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and only with the proper hunting license issued by the DNR and a permit issued by the city.
“But that exception got removed,” Heiar said. “We worked very hard and spent countless hours to make sure the code was complete during the recodification process, but somehow we missed these two sentences.”
Heiar asked the North Liberty City Council for direction in the matter, and they verbally agreed to put it on an upcoming agenda.
Special hunting permits within city limits are fairly common in municipalities of all sizes, a practice implemented by the DNR to help keep wildlife flocks and herds healthy and controlled.
City council member Coleen Chipman wondered if North Liberty has a problem with its deer population.
“Are deer causing damage in our parks or anything?”
Heiar said he had not heard anything about problems caused by deer.
“We have a goose problem,” said Assistant City Administrator Tracey Mulcahey.
Tim Thompson, Wildlife Management Specialist for the DNR, said in a telephone interview last week that many cities allow hunting within their city limits. At least 20 metropolitan areas are on the DNR’s list for special hunting programs, and many smaller cities also have their own ordinances for deer and other wildlife.
“The DNR sets the hunting seasons which cover the state of Iowa,” said Thompson, specific times of the year designated for archery, shotgun and other types of hunting. “We consider cities similar to private property owners. A private property owner can hunt on his own property, or not allow hunting. Most cities have ordinances to disallow guns in town, but it is up to the city whether to allow it or not.”
All city ordinances must be compatible with DNR regulations, including parameters that dictate safe hunting practices, Thompson said, such as staying 200 yards away from any occupied building.
“Cities can make the regulations more restrictive if they wish to,” Thompson noted. The DNR allows cities to adopt in-town hunting ordinances because in the past, it was often an unregulated but frequent practice.
“Other times, towns were saying ‘we have deer eating all the vegetation in our parks and people’s yards,’ or ‘we’ve had so many vehicles involved in deer accidents, we need to get the deer population down in town.’ So this is a tool for cities to reduce the deer population without having to spend a lot of money, and a way for individuals who don’t hunt to allow hunters to come onto their properties– because even within city limits, some properties can still be rural– and help reduce the population.”
Thompson added that of all towns in the special hunting programs, the DNR has never had reports of any safety problems with hunting inside city limits.
Heiar said he plans to bring some information back to the council at their next meeting of Jan. 23 on the city’s history of permit requests and issuances, and will place it on the agenda as a discussion item.
“It will be the council’s discretion whether to put it back in or leave it out,” Heair said. If the hunting ordinance is added back into the code, it will eventually have to go through the process of a public hearing and three readings.