Oxford’s city leaders and officials with government wildlife management agencies met Tuesday to discuss how Oxford can safely control its deer population, a thorn in the flesh for some property owners whose gardens and landscaping have become the preferred diet for the widely dispersed game animals.
Deer-vehicle collisions, and injuries to people, have become more frequent with the city’s growth and the animals’ determination to roam as instinct and necessity dictate.
Tuesday’s meeting follows cancellation of an earlier decision to allow limited bow hunting by designated hunters inside the city. Oxford has had a permit for years allowing officials to kill deer posing safety issues inside the perimeter of Oxford’s airport near College Hill Road.
The officials gathered Tuesday decided to begin with a deer census, a rough count using the best methods of wildlife professionals and residents’ sitings – partnering with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
We hope other communities whose growth is pushing or has pushed into historic deer habitat follow what unfolds in Oxford because decisions there might offer a general solution for other deer-vs.-people-in-urban-areas issues.
Chad Dacus, a biologist who is a deer specialist with the Mississippi department, said Mississippi has between 1.65 million and 1.8 million deer. Dacus and department spokesman Mark Beason said Mississippi’s deer density is the highest in the nation because so much food-rich habitat supports a population that’s less threatened by hunting and encouraged by food-source enrichment.
“There’s biological population, which is how many deer habitat can support, and there’s cultural population, which is how many deer people can stand,” Dacus said.
Dacus said Southaven and Madison both have had deer problems, and in a larger view, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.
It seems inevitable that other cities in Northeast Mississippi can expect similar problems. Deer are sited frequently inside Tupelo’s city limits in wooded areas, along the Natchez Trace Parkway, on utility rights of way, and near cultivated fields. The deer have always been there; development has come to them.
Control choices could include residential landscaping that’s less attractive as food, but that choice would be voluntary unless required by ordinance. We’re not convinced that’s necessary.
Wildlife professionals have said relocation and sterilization aren’t practical.
We support ordinances that would prohibit intentional residential feeding of deer, which makes them dependent on handouts, fearless, and less inclined to survive on natural food.
At least one public hearing will be scheduled in Oxford to hear residents’ concerns, ideas and suggestions.
Oxford’s process bears watching.
NEMS Daily Journal