Whether they’ve decapitated your flowers, played chicken with your vehicle, or charged you on your walk home at night, avoiding interactions with the deer of Ashland is nearly impossible. The Rogue Valley has become a hotspot for the Black Tailed Deer that have migrated down from the hills. With a surplus of food in almost every yard and lack of predators, the growing population has become a problem in the city that appears to only be getting worse.
Learning to live among the speeding cars and pets have made the urban deer braver when it comes to confrontation. One of the most infamous incidents occurred in 2012, when a doe ran through the window of a high end clothing store downtown.
Another confrontation occurred last year when 52 year old resident Amy Femeley was attacked by a doe at 5:30 AM in her backyard. When Fenley let her small dog, Buddy, out back it was cornered by a large female deer who was lurking on the property. After Femeley ran to help her dog, the deer turned to her and while pinning her against the house began attacking with its hooves.
In an interview with the Daily Tidings Ms. Femeley reported, “I screamed bloody murder for help, but no one came. Buddy jumped in and tried to scare her off, which he did. He saved my life. I was in shock, hyperventilating and shaking uncontrollably. I’m still rather traumatized.”
Legal steps to help the problem have had little success in Ashland in recent years. Although city council passed a vote to allow 8 foot tall fences to be built, gardens are still being ravaged as the deer are finding their way through holes and weak points. Also, in 2012 a fine of up to $425 was put in place for feeding the deer, when residents complained that deer would hang around their yards when neighbors would willingly supply them with food.
A study last week by Progressive insurance proved the suspicion that Oregon drivers are some of the slowest in the nation. Even with Siskiyou Boulevard being a 25 MPH zone and relatively low limits throughout the town, it was confirmed that vehicles have killed at least 250 deer between 2001 and 2011. According to the Wildlife Society Bulletin, deer account for 1 billion dollars in damages and 200 human fatalities in America annually.
Last year Dr. Michael Parker, Chair of Southern Oregon University’s Biology Department, told Jefferson Public Radio, “We’ve created a beautiful habitat for this particular animal.”
Ideas of how to get the deer to move are still difficult to choose though; relocating through wildlife services can cost thousands of dollars per animal and also runs a high risk of disease transfer.
In Connecticut a town fed up with damaged property and sickness from deer overpopulation founded the Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance. The group works to inform the towns about the dangers of deer population but is most notably known for their organized hunts.
Serendipitously enough the town of Ashland, Wisconsin last year implemented very specific rules and guidelines for a hunt of their own, and bow hunters of southern Oregon have jumped at the idea of adopting this practice. But due to resistance from animal rights activists and possible crossfire, the plan has yet to take flight. These culling efforts are akin to calling an exterminator, Parker told JPR, “It’s not savory at all, and has nothing in common with sport hunting.”
While plans for official hunts or removal of the deer will be kept on the back burner, residents of Ashland can take preventative steps to avoid the creatures by following some basic rules:
-Don’t approach deer or their fawns.
-Don’t leave food outside that will attract them.
-Be alert at night when driving.
-It is better to collide with the animal than to swerve into traffic.
-If you see one, there are probably more around.