WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — On Tuesday, Winston-Salem city council voted to extend a program aimed at eliminating wildlife near Smith Reynolds Airport. The move also adjusts the program to allow wildlife officials to use rifles when gunning down deer and wild turkey near the airport.
To be clear, officials would not be on airport grounds. The program requires they hunt down the wildlife within 800 feet of the airport property. Use of handguns is prohibited.
The program began in August 2019. City council voted to allow wildlife officials to come to Smith Reynolds Airport and shoot down deer that were hanging out near the airport. The airport's director had complained for years that deer were finding their way onto runways, creating a serious hazard for pilots and passengers.
The ordinance signed in 2019 made it so officials could use shotguns to shoot the deer. The program would end one year later.
In that year, USDA wildlife officers visited Smith Reynolds Airport five times. They eliminated 27 deer. The meat was processed and donated to charity.
In August 2020, Winston-Salem city council voted to extend the program for another year. This time, they included wild turkey as acceptable wildlife to shoot down. Once again, the program would expire after one year.
In August 2021, city council voted to extend the program for yet another year.
Since August 2020, wildlife officials have eliminated eight deer and six turkeys. The city says nobody has complained.
On June 21, Winston-Salem city council approved another extension to the program, this time making a change that allows officials to use rifles in addition to shotguns.