Oxford’s urban hunt suspended

OXFORD – The city’s deer hunt is off, at least for a couple of weeks.
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson and Public Works Director Bart Robinson met Thursday with state wildlife officials to discuss differing understandings about Oxford’s intentions to thin the urban deer herd.
Patterson had announced last week that the city had, with the state’s permission, authorized some 20 experienced bowhunters to shoot deer on city property, other than parks, and on private property in the Grand Oaks neighborhood, with permission from the property owners.
Late Wednesday, though, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks disputed that Oxford had received such a permit.
It acknowledged in a statement that deer depredation permits had been granted for the University Golf Course and for University-Oxford Airport but said no other public or private properties were included.
The statement added that the department had “referred the city of Oxford to USDA Wildlife Services to discuss other means of controlling the deer population within the Oxford area.”

Warning
The statement closed with a terse warning: “Neither the city of Oxford, nor the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, has the authority to open the deer hunting season prior to Oct. 1. Anyone hunting prior to Oct. 1 is in violation of state law and may be cited for hunting out of season.”
Patterson said the city had followed instructions to the letter.
“A week ago they sat in that room and assured us of what we could do,” Patterson said. “We did exactly what their officers told us to do.”
Thursday’s meeting apparently eased the misunderstandings. MDWFP spokesman Jim Walker said a department officer, in his enthusiasm to help solve Oxford’s problem, had probably overstated the situation.
The officer had urged the recruited hunters, “This ain’t a trophy hunt. Shoot whatever comes by – babies, mamas. The hunt is on a permit issued by the state, so we are not here to hunt horn; we are just here to kill deer.”
Walker acknowledged, “Early on there seems to have been some misinformation that was disseminated from one of our officers – maybe not the best of choice of words.”
Patterson said Thursday’s discussion in Jackson “was a very positive meeting. They want to come help us with our problem.”
Officials will schedule another talk prior to the Oct. 1 start of bow season in the area to discuss particulars for a safe and legal urban hunt.
Neither side disagrees that there is an overpopulation of deer in Oxford, as evidenced by stripped landscaping and frequent collisions with motor vehicles. Walker said some residents’ fascination with Bambi and Co. can worsen the problem.
“They’re cute, but then a couple turn into several, and several turn into a small cavalry,” Walker said. “And then you’ve got people who feed them, who are drawing them in. There’s a number of issues to deal with.”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com. Read his blog at NEMS360.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal