Oxford deer issue draws little response at public hearing

OXFORD – After a public outcry in September, Oxford residents apparently have lost much of their interest in dealing with a perceived overpopulation of deer inside the city.
Of the six non-officials who spoke at a public hearing on the issue Thursday, none opposed carefully controlled lethal measures to lower the whitetail population.
Fewer than 10 residents who were not officials or media came Thursday night. Two weeks earlier, a discussion by state and federal wildlife experts on the scope of the problem and possible remedies had attracted only a slightly larger crowd.
With costly landscape damage and frequent car-deer wrecks, everyone who spoke agreed that deer are too numerous inside the city.
“There are too many detriments that these animals are having to go through – accidents by car, disease, lack of vegetation,” said Bobby Ingram.
Several people endorsed a well-managed bow hunt – something that was aborted in September after state wildlife officials would not authorize it out of season.
Grand Oaks Homeowners Association President Dave Dyke said he personally wants to see the deer population cut but is leery of bow hunting because of the possibility of poorly placed shots. While bow hunting has been the most oft-mentioned harvest method, the use of USDA professional hunters armed with sound-suppressed rifles was mentioned at an earlier meeting as an option.
Mayor Pat Patterson confirmed that a no-feeding ordinance “is in the works.”
Deer control will be an ongoing process, said Chad Dacus, who directs the whitetail deer program of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said the next steps will be to create a draft deer control plan and refine it with more public input while conducting seasonal surveys of the deer population.
If city officials opt for lethal measures, controlled hunts will not likely be implemented before next fall.
“This is a process. This is not a quick fix,” he said. “There’s no magic bullet.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal