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Viral video of Lakeway deer control program reignites outrage

WARNING: The video in this story may be graphic to some viewers.

LAKEWAY, Texas -- A video of workers gathering trapped deer as a part of Lakeway's effort to control overpopulation is circulating online, sparking outrage among residents and animal rights groups about a controversial program that started in 1999.

In the video, which was reportedly recorded in March and has been shared on the Next Door app and Facebook groups such as "Citizen Advocates for Animals," workers can be seen removing deer from netting as a woman takes video and tells them, "This is not right." Some of the deer trapped in the netting can be heard moaning as the woman and a girl in the background cry.

WARNING: The following video may be graphic to some viewers:

Deer trapping is a state program implemented by the city of Lakeway to control the overpopulation of deer. All traps are set on city-owned land or private land where the owner has given written permission to set traps. Deer are not killed at the traps, but instead are taken to a processing plant and their meat is sent to local food banks, the city said.

By 1997, the deer population in Lakeway had grown to an estimated 2,600 animals, nearly five times what would be considered a reasonable maximum density for the area at that time, according to the city.

The deer management program has been in place since 1999 after an 86% approval vote of a special non-binding referendum regarding City policy on deer control in May 1997. The program was implemented with concern of vehicle accidents involving white tailed deer, the city said.

According to the city website, national statistics indicate deer are struck by motor vehicles more than one million times per year, causing more than one billion dollars in damage, and more than 100 people are killed annually in these accidents, making deer more deadly to humans than sharks, alligators, bears, and rattlesnakes combined.

We have - we believe an excess of deer we need to manage," Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones said.

Jones said deer caused 90 car accidents in the city in 2017 and believes controlling the deer population is needed for public safety.

"We're following what the state tells us we have to do. If we had a more 'humane process' we would take it," Jones said.

KVUE has been contacted by numerous concerned residents who have watched the video and who believe the city is torturing the deer.

The Humane Society of the United States has released a statement regarding the video.

"There is simply no excuse for the inhumane methods used to trap and remove deer in Lakeway, Texas. The Humane Society of the United States has tried many times over the years to work with their city leaders to change deer protocols and we are deeply saddened to see this latest viral video from a distraught resident," the statement read in part.

According to the Citizen Advocates for Animals Facebook page, the president of the group is calling for the city to stop the program immediately.

"We have had more than eighteen years of city leaders who have refused to listen to the citizens of Lakeway," said the president, Rita Cross. "We may have needed this program two decades ago, but, we do not need this program today. It is inhumane and it must stop."

City officials told KVUE deer trapping is done for the remainder of the year, and 99 deer were collected from 10 traps in 2018.

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