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Bountiful • Dennis Christensen has counted as many as 22 mule deer hanging out in his backyard.

Last week, there were 13 milling around and leaving not-so-friendly reminders on the lawn.

But their numbers are shrinking.

State wildlife managers, Bountiful leaders and volunteers are collaborating this winter in an effort to trap and move urban deer from suburban neighborhoods to remote locations across Utah.

"We have lived in this house for 48 years and only with deer the last 10 years," said Christensen, who watched Friday morning as Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) staffers and volunteers from Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife took a sixth deer from a trap in his backyard. "It is kind to relocate them. I have some neighbors who have been feeding them and that is unkind, as far as I am concerned."

The city recently banned feeding deer as part of the campaign to reduce urban deer, but biologists say the ungulates' numbers are already out of control in town — some even are jumping onto Bountiful roofs.

Statewide, Utah's deer population reached 332,000 after the 2013 hunt. And with cities continuing to develop suburbs into the foothills, human-deer conflicts are bound to grow.

Four years ago, sharpshooters were used to remove some deer from Bountiful neighborhoods. Just 12 were killed before the idea was tabled due to concerns about firing rifles in the city limits.

Another option would allow archery hunters into town. Highland in Utah County is moving into its second year of allowing educated archers to take deer in city limits.

Brian Cook, program coordinator for Highland's urban deer program, told the City Council in August that 74 deer were killed in the first year and 5,550 pounds of ground venison were donated to mission centers in Salt Lake City.

At the same time, Highland residents told council members they worry about the safety of allowing archery hunting in city limits.

Urban deer leave messes, eat gardens and shrubs and pose dangers to drivers.

DWR has simply killed animals in the past, but that aversion method is not as socially acceptable as it once was, and moving the mammals meshes with state efforts to build deer herds.

Sandy and Holladay leaders also have asked wildlife managers about options for diverting deer from foothill neighborhoods.

"Every city seems to have a different take on what methods are going to work for its citizens," said Channing Howard, an urban wildlife specialist for DWR. "Those communities have been looking to the division for answers."

The deer are lured by apples on the floor of a rectangular-shaped trap lined with netting. On their way in, the animals trigger a release on the door, which drops. Volunteers and state biologists, including DWR director Greg Sheehan on Friday, back their way into the trap and then wedge the deer into a corner. The animal is then taken to the ground, blindfolded and hobbled.

Adult deer are fitted with a radio collar and tested for chronic wasting disease before being moved to a horse trailer. Fawns do not get a collar to prevent issues from developing as the animals grow.

Howard started the Bountiful transplant last winter with 36 deer moved to the Cedar Mountains near Dugway. Two of the 36 animals were killed by hunters this fall.

The state has increased relocation efforts this year with a goal of moving at least 200 adult deer — the number of radio collars or radio ear tags available. Captured fawns will be moved but not get a collar. The animals will be transported to either the Raft River Mountains in northwestern Utah or the Big Wash area of Duchesne County.

The deer caught in Christensen's backyard was one of four caught Friday morning. Nine others were trapped Thursday. So far, 24 deer have been moved recently from Bountiful.

As one fawn was loaded into the trailer for transport Friday, five other deer watched with great interest.

"Maybe we should throw the apples in the trailer and see if they will go in by themselves," joked one of the volunteers. "It would be a lot easier than wrestling them."

Twitter: @BrettPrettyman —