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Deer Damage

August 6, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Deer Damage
ABERDEEN, SD -

A view from your home of an open, grassy area can be peaceful. It can also prompt a trip to a city council meeting.

That’s where Aberdeen resident Bill Bowen found himself Monday. Bowen has lived in a development on the edge of the city for more than six years.

"When I first moved out there you'd have an occasional deer move around but it wasn't anything of any repetition. But over the years, the herd that is out there has gotten bigger and they've also become more familiar with humans," Bowen said.

The whitetail deer population has increased dramatically in the United States over the past century. Some communities, including Sioux Falls and Rapid City, have programs in place to control deer populations within city limits. 

Bowen told Aberdeen City Council members that deer are causing damage to shrubs and trees in Aberdeen. He wonders if it will get worse.

"I've got a raised patio that's pavers and then there's three large windows that overlook the golf course and we've had them right up on the patio where there isn't even anything to eat and I've always been concerned that they might get scared or something and just dart through the window," Bowen said.

Bowen is asking city council members to consider amending city law to allow bow hunting within city limits.

Council member Laure Swanson lives on the other end of town with a field a block from her house. Her neighborhood sees plenty of deer.

"In my district in the southeast part of town I hear both ways," Swanson said. "Depredation that is going on is a problem for some and others really enjoy having the deer and that's why they live in this part of town because they can enjoy the wildlife it provides."

City manager Lynn Lander is researching options Aberdeen has to address the issue. He's looking at programs in place to control the deer population in other South Dakota cities including Rapid City, Pierre and Sioux Falls. Lander also plans to research other deer laws in the Midwest.

"I don't know if we'll have the ability to allow public hunting in Aberdeen because of our terrain. It's a lot different than some of those other cities where they may have natural valleys where they can bait the deer to a particular valley which then limits the exposure to ricochets or problems associated with killing the animals by the public," Lander said.

Still, Lander will look for options that involve more than scaring the deer away from property.

"A lot of people have tried the hazing and scare tactics and I think it's served well for some individuals,” Lander said.

Still, it hasn’t worked for other, Lander said. Aberdeen has areas with ideal habitat for the deer.

Lander will present his findings to city council members as quickly as possible. In the meantime, Swanson is still asking for public input. She says she hasn’t decided what type of solution she’d support.

"Some of the plants and trees and shrubs that they're eating are quite expensive and that is a problem for some. Others just enjoy the wildlife," Swanson said.

If bow hunting isn't an option in Aberdeen, Bowen would like to see some kind of solution that produces results.

"I don't know how effective it would be but I think it may be worth a try because the herd is just getting bigger and more bold,” Bowen said. “At some point we may have a problem beyond people losing trees and losing shrubs and that kind of thing."

Swanson says she's also concerned about car crashes. The City paid for a study that shows a very small percentage of crashes in town involve deer. Still, the high school sits on the edge of town where more animals tend to be and Swanson is concerned about young drivers.

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