Oh Deer: Ashland Citizens Voice Opinions

There is an increasing amount of deer in Ashland, Oregon. That is virtually the only aspect of the deer situation the people in town agree on. On September 23rd, Mayor John Stromberg held the City of Ashland Deer Summit for citizens to voice their personal encounters with deer in town as well as possible solutions for a situation many are viewing as a problem.

Mayor Stromberg opened by stating that the city has been getting more reports of serious interactions with deer, where people as well as dogs are being seriously struck or injured. Also, he revealed there were 62 dead deer found in town between August 2014 and August 2015. The major issue is that at this point, the deer are domesticated and no longer afraid of humans and may even become aggressive.

Most citizen encounters included the individual and often a pet either getting cornered or chased by deer in the area. Others explained that whenever they’re around deer, either the deer aren’t bothersome, or the individual has learned how to deal with the deer peacefully.

Opinions of deer also differed. A few people find no problem with the deer, or even find them cute, while one woman went as far as describing deer as ‘hooved vermin.’

In addition to the stories, citizens had the chance to provide input on possible solutions. Resolutions ranged from removing aggressive deer from the area to better public education. One individual, Wanda Nelson, proposed that the city brings back cougars (deer predators) in order better regulate population. Her thinking: if the diseased and weak deer are taken care, then only the healthy population remains, which should be more manageable.

Another proposition was culling deer, or bringing in skilled bow hunters to ‘harvest’ some of the population. According to the individual, the meat could be donated to food banks and benefit the community.

Finally, a few contributors (including a member of the Wildlife Committee), believes public education is key. One woman said that she saw children chasing the deer, but the deer weren’t doing anything in the first place. Situations such as this may even trigger aggression in the deer. The woman stated, “Sometimes the people are the problem. We need some education here.” A possible path for this education is looking at other cities to see what has worked for them and to try and implement something similar.

Mayor Stromberg hopes to use material from this meeting to set up an open conversation for citizens on the city hall website.

One thing is clear: whether it’s better public education or a drastic change such as bow hunters, something needs to be done about the deer population in Ashland, especially if they are becoming aggressive. But, as Stromberg explained, it’s up to the people. “It seems to me, that this relationship between the human population and the deer population of Ashland is not working very well for either of us. And we need to do something. And I think the onus is on us human beings to be the ones to come up with creative ideas to bring these two populations into balance and harmony with each other.”