Oxford hunt affects local deer behavior

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Oxford officials say last fall’s bow hunt for deer inside the city went as planned but that this year’s harvest will require larger tracts to have hunters assigned.
Homeowners with lots less than the required size – probably 1.5 acres – can participate by getting neighbors to sign up together.
“Some people who applied last year had zero lot lines,” said Emergency Management Director Jimmy Allgood, who heads Oxford’s deer management program. “This year we’re looking at probably about 1.5 acres minimum, preferring upwards of 3.5 acres.”
City, state and federal officials took more than a year to study Oxford’s growing deer problem. The animals generated complaints about stripped landscapes, traffic accidents and even the occasional encounter with deer emboldened by the absence of predators.
With public input, they considered such mitigation methods as capture and removal, sterilization, harassment by light and noise and harvest. Various residents spoke both for and against hunting, but most responses were in favor of it. After outlawing the feeding of deer, aldermen approved a limited harvest.
The city recruited veteran bowhunters who then paid fees, passed a written exam and were assigned to hunt only where homeowners had requested them. The hunters killed 109 deer within city limits, which has begun to change deer behavior.
“We have seen some immediate impact in the areas where we had the hunt,” Allgood said. “We saw some areas last year that we actually moved some hunters out, because there just weren’t many deer there anymore.”
Ronnie Cannon was one of the assigned hunters.
“The place where I hunted, I started out seeing 16 to 20,” he said. He added that the hunt not only reduced numbers but reinstilled some of the deer’s natural fear of humans.
“If anything, hunting made them act like deer again,” Cannon said. “They became wary of people.”
Allgood agreed. “All of a sudden, there’s a predator out there,” he said, adding that the hunt was safe and generally non-disruptive.
“Most times people didn’t even know when they were there,” he said.
Frances Smith, who lives just north of State Highway 6 and west of Lamar Boulevard, said a hunter was assigned to her, but she doesn’t know if he killed any deer. In recent weeks she’s seen as many as five deer at a time within a few yards of her doors.
“What they did has to help, but it didn’t solve the problem yet,” she said.
Joan Cleary said while deer are still easy to find in her neighborhood near Pat Lamar Park, their numbers are fewer.
“I haven’t seen the herds of 10 or more that we saw last year,” she said. “I hope they’ll do (the hunt) again, and I’ll certainly give permission.”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens @journalinc.com.