To some, they’re cute.

To others, they’re a nuisance.

So how do you balance the two?

That’s what the Astoria City Council will have to decide as comments pour in from lovers and haters of the urban deer roaming the residential streets and trampling on neighborhood gardens.

“I have seen deer where I would expect to see them, in the woods or near the Astoria Column,” Mayor Willis Van Dusen said. “I have also seen deer where you would not expect to see them. I have seen three bucks outside the doors of the fire station, and a buck near the ticket booth of the Liberty Theater. They are everywhere in the city of Astoria.”

At an August council meeting, City Manager Paul Benoit, assisted by other members of the city staff, is expected to present the council with options, after a discussion at the last meeting where councilors, led by Arline LaMear, made the request.

“As a city manager, I get probably three or four phone calls a year from citizens who are upset by the high number of deer. They are mostly concerned when the deer eat their roses,” Benoit said. “I also get complaints about people who are feeding deer. There is an assumption that feeding them brings them into the city limits.

“We’ve never been able to address this and people handle it in their own ways.”

Benoit said he has a garden and uses an odor that repels deer, something he purchased from a local gardening store.

“The fact is we live in the middle of the woods out here and we’re in their territory more than they’re in ours, perhaps,” he said.

Benoit hopes the council will adopt ways of discouraging the deer’s movement into developed areas, through public education, ordinances and/or addressing the feeding, which is “not an easy issue.”

One option the council will be presented with, according to Police Chief Pete Curzon who Benoit said is “spearheading” the research, is to adopt an ordinance that would make it illegal to knowingly feed the deer and other wildlife. If they are not drawn to the area with food, there may be less of a problem, he said.

“There are two ways of handling it,” Curzon said. “One is certainly the feeding – prohibiting feeding of the animals including raccoons. And the second one would be creating the barriers so they can’t get to that certain percentage of people who do not like deer. But I think it’s 20/20/60. Twenty percent of people love the deer, want to feed them, 20 percent have gardens and just won’t tollerate it and the rest of the people, they’re kind of ambivalent.

“As long as they don’t have to deal with the issue, they don’t really care.”

The city of Ashland has adopted a similar ordinance that states people who get caught knowingly feeding wildlife will get a written notification that they must remove the attractant within a two-day period.

People who do not remove the attractant, which can include a salt lick, according to the Ashland city ordinance, can be cited for a Class 1 violation.

The total fine plus fees for a Class 1 violation can totla up to $435.

The feeding ban also covers wild turkeys, raccoons, bears, cougars, coyotes and wolves. People can still feed wild birds, except for turkeys.

Advice from ODFW

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been consulted by the city on the issue of deer. Herman Biederbeck, district wildlife biologist, had a series of solutions to offer. He is also expected to attend the late-August council meeting to make a presentation, Benoit said.

“I’ve had some discussions and this issue has been brought to the attention of our agency on a number of occasions. Deer problems are in the city. There’s no doubt about that,” Biederbeck said.

From the ODFW standpoint, he said, the agency is often contacted by residents who don’t like the deer and are seeking solutions, which are offered. ODFW does not trap the deer or use their efforts to relocate.

“In the city limits, some of the options are limited. You can’t discharge a firearm so you can’t hunt them,” he said. Instead, Biederbeck suggests planting more deer-resistant vegetation, using fencing in part of your garden to keep the deer out and using a scarecrow water cannon, a motion-sensored yard ornament that squirts water at the deer, encouraging their departure.

“These have shown to be effective ways to deal with deer problems in yards and that’s what I explain to folks who call in that have deer problems,” Biederbeck said. “One issue we hear about are some people feeding them which makes the problem worse. If you live next to a person who feeds the deer, the deer will likely wander over to your yard next. And that creates conflicts between neighbors.”

For other tips and advice, Biederbeck said, people can locate the “living with wildlife” section of dfw.state

“We offer advice because in reality, if we remove them, there will be more coming in right behind them. We try to strive for engineering solutions, like fencing, landscaping and scarecrow water cannons that will generally result in a one-step solution rather than a constant battle,” he said.

Not only does feeding the deer and encouraging their visits cause a conflict in the garden, Curzon estimates one deer a month is dispatched, meaning shot, by the Astoria Police Department because of injury related to car accidents. And that, he said, is a conservative guess.

“We can’t take them anywhere,” he said, adding that no animal hospital or veterinarian in the area can help a deer.

Other deer that are struck by cars run off before officers arrive, and cannot be located.

“Urban deer were brought up at the last council meeting because it’s a concern, and I know a number of people have talked to me about it,” Van Dusen said. “To me, it seems the community is split on the issue. A number of people enjoy them even though they eat their flowers or cause problems in their garden. They think the deer add a lot to the community. The other half of the city thinks the deer are a nuisance and overpopulated and dangerous.”

The mayor, who is a motorcycle rider, says his own household is split on the issue. His wife loves the deer. He thinks they could be dangerous in the roadway for his rides.

“I feel that as the mayor there are a lot of things that I need to do that I feel strongly about and then there are things that the community would like us to do. This is one of those issues. I plan to do what the community would like. However, I do feel that we have too many deer. And I wish there were fewer. But I don’t know how you handle that. I look forward to hearing the options at an upcoming council meeting and would encourage everyone who has an opinion about this issue to attend.”



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