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If you feed them, they will come

An Ashland resident reports she was recently charged by a deer while walking her 3-week-old infant and two Labrador retrievers in their favorite park across from North Mountain Park. Fortunately, the deer stopped short. This isn’t the first time this same deer has charged her, she said. Alex Strouf said this same deer has stalked her on four different occasions, even coming up her driveway. It’s stalked her husband twice, and charged them both on separate occasions.

“I just got big and loud, and it got within 10 feet of us,” Strouf said. “I put myself between the doe and the baby and it wasn’t backing down, so I slowly backed away and eventually left.”

Strouf said she has reason to believe one of her neighbors may be feeding the deer, an illegal act in Ashland, according to Ashland Police Deputy Chief Warren Hensman.

According to both Hensman and Mark Vargas, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) watershed district manager, feeding wildlife is one of the most common causes for aggression.

“When there’s an area where people befriend the deer, they lose their fear of humans,” Vargas said.

He said there’s no real solution to the problem and it’s been documented in Ashland for more than 30 years. Deer can become aggressive for several reasons, including: protection of young, especially during fawning season from May-July; during mating season from October through December; and around dogs, particularly small dogs.

Vargas described the urbanization of deer as an acclimation. When they lose their fear of people they can become territorial and aggressive.

“Sometimes, they’re just mean,” Vargas said. “It takes the change of the whole community. There’s always one neighbor that likes the deer. It’s hard to get everyone on the same page.”

Strouf said once she called the police, they said there was nothing they could do because the city of Ashland does not relocate deer. The city also does not euthanize deer unless it is injured and cannot walk.

“When do deer take precedent over people?” Strouf asked. “Unfortunately, we won’t be walking to our favorite park anymore. We’ll have to drive somewhere now.”

Ashland resident Angela Decker said her dog was attacked by a deer near their home in the Railroad District in July. The deer stomped the dog to the ground and caused extensive injuries. She said the vet found gravel and other foreign materials inside the dog’s wounds.

“It was touch and go for a while,” Decker said. “It was pretty traumatizing.”

She said there’s one deer in particular in the neighborhood that everyone is wary of.

“Deer should fear people more than they do. It creates conflict,” Vargas said. “Dear cause nuisances, there’s no great solution.”

He did suggest a few guidelines to follow:

Always go on walks in groups, never alone.

Leave small dogs at home if possible.

If a deer does become aggressive, back away slowly while facing it. Don’t turn your back on it.

Defend yourself. Hit it with a rock or a stick.

Report it.

Don’t befriend the deer. Always keep a distance.

Don’t feed deer or leave water out.

“I would like to walk with my dogs and my infant child without being fearful,” Strouf said. “I want to see change.”

To report aggressive wildlife, call ODFW at 503-947-6000 or the non-emergency police line at 541-488-2211.

To report someone feeding or taming wildlife, call the non-emergency police line.

For more information on living with deer and wildlife, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=16440 and www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/deer_elk.asp.

Any wildlife can become aggressive. Hensman said the police department doesn’t receive many calls about aggressive deer, but it’s not entirely uncommon.

The city website states: “Unfortunately, the City is severely constrained in its ability to address the deer problem. In Oregon, the management of deer populations is the exclusive purview of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Ashland for its part has done what we are legally permitted to do by adopting an ordinance that prohibits the feeding of deer and allowing property owners to construct eight foot high deer fencing.”

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

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