• July 31, 2014

Residents adjust to large deer population

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Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2014 4:30 am

People living in areas such as Salado and Morgan’s Point Resort sometimes find it challenging to live with the large deer populations.

Each community seems to be divided into two camps: those who love seeing and feeding the deer and those who consider them a beautiful nuisance.

Fred Churchill, Morgan’s Point Resort police chief, hears and sees both sides of the issue and has some real concerns for the health of the local deer population.

Churchill is a former game warden captain for Region 9, District 3, of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

“The deer were here before we were,” are common words people hear from Churchill when they go to the police department to complain about deer on their property, he said.

“People moved into their habitat,” he said.

Deer eat flowers and bushes, knock over trash cans and spread the garbage everywhere, leave droppings in the yard, provide distractions to pets and even cause “squabbles” between neighbors that need police to settle, Churchill said.

“There is a growing concern from some concerned citizens who are asking for something to be done about the deer,” Churchill added.

The disturbances are between neighbors who feed the deer and those who don’t want them fed.

Currently no ordinance exists that prohibits feeding deer, but residents have been told they can only put corn out on their property and not in the roadways, Churchill said.

“The (Morgan’s Point Resort) City Council would have to create an ordinance to make it an offense to feed the deer. Other cities like Austin have done it,” he said.

Austin adopted an ordinance on Feb. 23, 2009, prohibiting the intentional feeding of deer within the city limits. It is now a Class C misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of at least $75 but not more than $125.

Many complaints

Minutes from a Morgan’s Point Resort April 19, 2011, council meeting indicate the complaints from residents are not just recent, isolated instances.

A resident who lived on Starboard Lane said the deer population had become an annoyance to her family and other families. She said neighbors in her area were feeding the deer, throwing corn in the street and sometimes in her yard. She said she talked to neighbors but nothing improved.

The resident asked the council to adopt an ordinance to protect the property owners that included not feeding the deer.

The mayor told her the council would consider an ordinance in a future meeting.

Deer hit by cars

Deer are hit in the roadways several times a week, sometimes by patrol cars. No serious crashes have resulted, and it has become routine for residents to just pick up the phone, call their agent and say their vehicle has been damaged by hitting another deer. And the agent just tells them to go get it fixed, Churchill said.

The residents also call the police department, which has an established protocol approved by Texas Parks & Wildlife to “take care of the injured deer,” he said.

“There is no vet in the area that will treat wild animals, and who would pay the vet bill?” Churchill said.

If everyone quit feeding the deer, they would leave and migrate to where the food is, he said.

And eating a lot of corn is harmful to a deer’s health, Churchill said.

“It has no nutritional value. It just fills the deer up and keeps them from eating the natural foods they need. It affects the growth and herd development. The quality of the deer herd in Morgan’s Point Resort has diminished,” Churchill said.

He said it used to be common to see “monster bucks with huge antlers” in the area, but not anymore.

Deer-resistant yards

Yards can be beautifully landscaped with lush flowers if plants are chosen that are classified as deer-resistant.

Many residents from Salado and Morgan’s Point Resort check with Lonesome Pine Nursery, 3120 E. Adams Ave., Temple, to find out what they can plant to help keep the deer away, owner Jeanette Holtman said.

Holtman said people have three options:

Place plants that deer don’t like on the outer edges of their property since some plants have an odor, taste or texture the deer don’t like.

Install fencing to keep them out.

Use specific sprays on plants every 30 days that discourage the deer.

“Deer will try anything if they’re hungry, but they’ll take a nibble and move on,” Holtman said.

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