Deer issue divides Oxford residents

OXFORD — Some Oxford residents question whether a plan to control the deer population in the city is even needed, while others plead for help to prevent deer from destroying their yards.

Representatives of both sides of the emotional deer management issue had their say at this week’s public hearing before the Oxford Board of Aldermen.

The hearing provided those for and against a proposed deer management measure with one last opportunity to voice their views before city leaders vote on the plan Aug. 3.

While the deer management plan calls for both lethal and non-lethal measures to control the deer population, the most controversial solution is the use of bow-hunting to thin out the deer inside the city limits.

Under the formal bow-hunting program proposed in the management plan, the city will only accept bow hunters who meet the requirements set forth in an application, those approved to kill the deer will be matched up with a property owner for the hunt and the hunts must follow strict guidelines set to ensure the safety of the public.

“The rules of this program that we have proposed include that it must be on an angled hunt,” said Jimmy Allgood, the city’s emergency management coordinator. “No shot will take more than 25 yards to produce maximum effect and as a safety measure.”

The hunting will only occur on those properties in which the property owner have opted-in, which means the owner has requested the city provide them with a hunter to kill the deer on their property.

In other words, hunting will not take place on the property of those who do not want deer to be hunted, said Chad Dacus with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Other concerns raised at the hearing included what hazing techniques can be used as well as a lack of general information.

Hazing techniques are those actions which are taken to discourage deer from remaining within the city. For instance, hazing could include the use of water sprinklers or using loud noises, such as a cannon, to keep deer off city property.

“Hazing techniques can be effective, but not in a neighborhood,” Dacus said. “We do use and recommend propane cannons and chemicals in agricultural areas. We will have information on the website on (other hazing) techniques.”

The program also includes habitat modification techniques. The city will provide suggestions on its website, but it will not require homeowners to institute such modification techniques.

“It starts with the homeowner,” Dacus said. “It goes from the homeowner all the way to public land within the city. It becomes the individual homeowner planting plants, using different landscape techniques.”

For Joan Cleary, the deer problem has gone on long enough.

“Four years ago I wrote to the commission and pleaded (with them) to help us on St. Andrews Circle,” Cleary said. “It has only gotten worse in that time. I literally plea with you to seriously think about this and be extremely courageous. It is not going to get better unless we face this problem.”

Mike Hoffheimer said he’s not sure there are as many deer inside the city limits as the city contends.

“I like the deer. I’ve always liked the deer,” Hoffheimer said. “I have studied the deer over time and I am not convinced there has been a big explosion in the number of deer. There is an emotional rush to judgment on this issue and I’m concerned about that.”

Laura Bradley said she has deer that take naps in her yard. She has put up structures to protect her plants but nothing has worked.

Despite that, she would prefer the city implement the non-lethal options first. She cautioned that there will be people who decide to take hunting into their own hands, despite the city’s efforts to properly license authorized people.

Mayor Pat Patterson said the city does not intend to open citywide hunting.

Instead, any hunting will be tightly controlled to ensure only authorized hunters kill the deer, he said, adding that homeowners should call authorities if they see hunters trespassing on their property.

Frances Smith and Ben Smith said they are convinced the deer problem is out of control and they are unable to keep deer out of their yards.

“You are going to have to resort to some serious measures to get rid of the deer,” Ben Smith said.

Patterson said the deer will not be eradicated, but the city hopes to find a better balance for the population. The process is expected to take years because the deer population will be reduced gradually.

Melanie Addington/The Oxford Eagle