Residents ask mayor to curb deer problem

Residents on Monday called on Mayor John Stromberg to curb the city's growing deer population by allowing bow hunting and sterilization.

At a community meeting in City Council chambers after a series of aggressive deer encounters were reported over the summer, Stromberg said there is no easy solution to the deer problem. He said city officials will continue to study the issue in consultation with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists.

"With the deer problem, one person's solution is another person's tragedy," he said.

Mark Vargas, district wildlife biologist with ODFW, said controlling the deer population through hunting and birth-control darts would be difficult, because the city is bordered by forests where thousands of deer live.

Still, many of the 30 residents at the lunchtime meeting said they felt something should be done about the increasing deer population.

"We have a serious deer problem," said Don Seebart. "It's just going to get worse unless we do something — and we need to do something."

A handful of residents at the meeting said they didn't think Ashland had a deer problem and they were strongly against killing the animals.

"I have never had a problem with any of the deer," said Sallie Rose Sandler. "Is there no animal that can live without fear of humans, or do we have to kill them all?"

Ashland has seen an increase in deer in recent years, Vargas said. The deer have become less afraid of humans, leading some to become aggressive during breeding and fawning seasons, roughly between May and August, he said.

This summer several residents reported being attacked by deer, especially while walking their dogs, which deer can mistake for predators. Aggressive deer have been known to rear up on their hind legs and try to stomp on people and their dogs. There were no reports of serious injuries from deer attacks in the city this summer.

More than a dozen residents at the meeting raised their hands when Stromberg asked who had encountered aggressive deer.

The city could decide to create an ordinance banning people from feeding deer, but it's doubtful whether that would affect the deer problem, Vargas said.

Using birth-control darts would be astronomically expensive and likely wouldn't work, because fertile deer could always move from the forest into town, he said.

Vargas said he also wouldn't advise killing deer to reduce their population.

"I have some concerns about that in a city like this," he said. "First of all, it involves blood, which a lot of people wouldn't like, and the animals might not die instantly."

It would also be "an astronomical task," involving the killing of hundreds of deer a year, he said.

Vargas said he hopes to affect the deer problem by educating residents. He strongly discourages people from feeding deer, because it can make them sick and can decrease their fear of humans.

Homeowners in the city can try to scare deer away with garden hoses and can install fences to try to keep them out of gardens, Vargas said.

Landowners outside the city limits can use noise-makers to try to scare deer away, he said. If county residents have exhausted other options, ODFW will sometimes grant them a permit to kill specific deer, Vargas said.

Ultimately, Vargas said, the deer problem isn't one that can be solved in one meeting, because people's views on the deer vary so widely.

"This has happened over decades," he said. "It's a behavioral issue with deer and it's a behavioral issue with humans and it's not something that can be changed instantly."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or

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