Local News

Oh, Deer! What a Problem!

Posted April 12, 1996

— April 13, 1996, 9:48 a.m. EST Bambi is adorable, especially on the movie screen. But lots of Bambis overpopulating an area -- being hit by cars, munching their way daily across public parks, eating backyard gardens -- is another matter. And some of the problem arises because from the deers' point of view, man is overpopulating the deers' territory. But in Chatham County, no matter the cause, there is a problem.

Typical solutions, such as extending the hunting season, haven't helped in Chatham County. A public hearing will be held April 22 to discuss the problem, even though county commissioners can do little since the state controls the length of the hunting season.

County Commissioner Margaret Pollard said she thinks the hearing is "a good place to start. If there's sufficient concern in the community, if what I'm gauging as concern is true, and if the hearing substantiates what I hear around the county, then I think it would warrant us going to the General Assembly," she said.

State data indicate five people died in deer-related accidents last year, and 1,000 were injured. Chatham County government alone has had 10 cars damaged by deer so far this year. And residents' accidents increase that figure.

Deer overpopulation is not new to the state; in 1991 the either-sex hunting season was increased from four to 10 days to control a then-record 640,000 deer. But that didn't help. Possibly because there has been a drop in hunting and an increase in construction.

The construction reduces grazing land for deer to live and for access land for hunters.

And statistics show only 0.3 percent of hunters killed the legal limit of six deer per season. Only 5 percent of hunters killed more than two deer. "Now deer are everywhere," said Larry Warlick, a district biologist, "so it's not quite the same challenge."

The either-sex season is now up to 30 days, and still the overpopulation exists.

"People plant all these tasty shrubs," Warlick said. "and then are surprised when wildlife show up. If you're going to live in the country, you've got to expect wildlife to come around. It's like having a large bowl of strawberries, or a large bowl of strawberry ice cream, in a room full of children, and then coming back and being surprised that it's gone.

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