By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
Deer in Northeast Mississippi are on the move and will be for most of January as they breed.
A much more abundant population and bucks with minds on the rut are making driving more dangerous, even in cities, according to Lann Wilf, biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries northern region.
Corp. Phillip Sanderson of the Tupelo Police Department said they are seeing more deer move into the populous areas of Tupelo and cause traffic accidents.
Tupelo Police reported a deer-related accident at the intersection of Butler and Coley roads near the Tupelo County Club on Jan. 1 around 7 a.m.
Another police report showed a deer-related accident Jan. 2 around 6 a.m. on Wilson Street, a heavily wooded but also residential area near East Main Street.
Sanderson said a deer ran into an officer’s car at the intersection of Highway 45 and McCullough Boulevard two weeks ago.
Toward the end of December, incidents were reported on Cliff Gookin Boulevard between South Gloster Street and Lawndale Drive.
“Most of theses accidents have been happening early morning and in the late night hours,” Sanderson said. “If a driver encounters a deer and has an accident, it’s important to pull over as soon and as safely as possible. Do not approach the deer and call 911 once you’re safe.”
Sid Russell, director of Tupelo Public Works, said the most problematic areas for deer in the city are on Cliff Gookin Boulevard between Thomas Street and Tupelo High School and on Main Street near the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Being located on the Natchez Trace, Wilf said, makes Tupelo a prime target for deer movement.
Whistles that can be attached to your car and are marketed to repel deer can be purchased for less than $10, but numerous studies, including one in 2007 at the University of Georgia, show deer do not react to the whistles.
Wilf said Mississippi’s deer herd is approaching 2 million, meaning there is one deer for everyone one-and-a-half people in Mississippi. “Last year we had possibly the largest crop in 50 years,” he said. “Deer did not move last year and our population is through the roof. Hunters generally do not take enough deer each year.”
To stabilize the state’s deer population, hunters would have to take 30 percent of the state’s population each year and Wilf said they are taking only 250,000 to 350,000 deer, or about 15 percent.
Oxford is Mississippi’s pilot city for a new deer population control plan.
The city’s mayor and board of aldermen grant a license to bow hunters who meet a strict set of requirements, including a weapon proficiency test.
Once a hunter is cleared, they are given specific areas within the city they can bow hunt.
Wilf said this helps reduce the population within the city limits – in Oxford he’s seen hunters take 60 to 80 deer each season – and also instill fear of being hunted into deer who have been living in the city for generations.
“The deer have walked up into people’s yards and seen people on their porch for years without being shot at.”
Currently Oxford is the only city with the control program but Wilf said he expects other cities to sign up as the deer population continues to move into neighborhoods.