A group of those officials met Tuesday to establish a direction for the effort. They agreed the effort should begin again with a count of the deer population and include a public meeting at which residents can offer input about possible solutions.
Attending were Oxford’s mayor, city engineer, emergency management director and four aldermen. Also at the meeting were two representatives of the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and two more from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Oxford, which has had a depredation permit for many years to kill deer at its airport, began a bowhunt earlier this month at other locations, including private property where permission was granted, only to stop it after MDWFP reversed the assurances of its local officers. Officials from both entities met again last week and agreed to start anew.
A carefully controlled bowhunt during normal deer season could be one public answer to the nuisance, while fencing and less palatable landscaping could ease individual homeowners’ problems. Any such hunt would be an exception to city ordinance and thus would not be open to the public, Mayor George “Pat” Patterson said.
He noted that while neither a totally non-lethal approach nor a total eradication program is called for, devastated landscaping and frequent deer-vehicle collisions mean something has to be done.
“I think the overwhelming majority of people in this town would like some progress toward deer reduction,” he said.
Larry Castle, MDWFP’s director of wildlife, emphasized a patient and sustained approach.
“There’s not going to be a magic bullet. It’s not going to go away quickly,” he said. “We’ll have to work together and provide what we know. At the end of it, everyone will not be happy.”
Kris Godwin, state director of USDA-APHIS wildlife service, said her agency could offer either technical or hands-on help from workshops on deer-resistant landscaping to managing an urban deer hunt.
“This is not the first urban deer problem of this magnitude that I’ve heard of,” she said. “Many, many states across the nation have dealt with this situation.”
Some residents opposed to killing deer have asked about relocation roundups or chemically sterilizing the deer population, but wildlife officials agreed both methods were ineffective.
Officials will meet again to plan a public meeting for later this fall after an estimate is made of the deer population using methods such as homeowner reports, trail cameras and spotlight counts in known feeding areas.
Castle said one partial solution for Oxford’s deer problem could come without any expense.
“Landowners who are feeding deer in their backyard should quit today,” he said. “There are regulations that this body can pass that would help that.”