Deer within city limits are cause for complaint for some Union County residents. Citizens in Union are exploring the possibility of a private hunt to bring down numbers of deer in the city. (JEFF PETERSEN/The Observer)
Union County community looking for ways to reduce in-city deer population
The proliferation of deer in town has some folks searching for answers — again.
Union City Administrator Sandra Patterson said Union residents have been here before.
“A few years ago, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife came out and spoke to us and provided us with several different remedies,” Patterson said. “None of them were permanent remedies, and they required additional funding.”
The city administrator said the city has found itself in a similar predicament as of late.
“We have had quite a few citizen complaints about the additional deer,” Patterson said. “We do have quite a few more than what we’ve had in the past.”
She said the problem has been raised so often recently that the city council recently brought the issue back up and is looking for more answers.
“One solution we remember (from the ODFW visit) was about the private hunt. We’re going to check into that to see if that may be a possibility,” Patterson said.
ODFW District Wildlife Biologist Leonard Erickson said the issue with the deer is not due to a migration into towns.
“Their numbers are growing because there aren’t the mortality factors in town or they aren’t occurring in the same rate as in the wild,” Erickson said.
He said natural predators like cougars and coyotes are not as prevalent in town. Additionally, people do things that draw deer like fertilizing lawns and maintaining gardens and fruit trees. These things create “highly palatable” feeding grounds that are in some cases more nutritious than what deer can find in the wild, Erickson said.
The biologist also noted the problem isn’t limited to Union or even Northeast Oregon.
“La Grande’s got deer, Elgin’s got deer, Cove’s got deer,” he said. “This is not a problem unique to Northeast Oregon. It’s a growing problem across the country.”
But solutions do not come easy.
“The best cure for a garden is a fence. That’s what I ended up doing,” Erickson said. “I know it’s expensive and doesn’t look good and no one wants to do it.”
Another tip from the biologist is to keep dogs away from deer, especially during springtime when fawns are born. Erickson said deer often view dogs as predators because they look like coyotes and can be aggressive toward them.
Erickson said trapping is another option, though it is difficult.
“We can’t do this every year. It’s pretty intense. It requires four people to really run a trap and then hauling them out,” Erickson said. Then, he added, you have to relocate the deer — and hope they don’t come back.
As for Union’s problem, Erickson said a hunt could possibly work if landowners adjacent to private hunting grounds approved of it.
“There are folks that would not look favorably on shooting deer on the edge of town,” he said. “There’s a safety issue. We have to put that on the top end of the list.”
Firearms cannot legally be discharged in town, but if deer can somehow be relocated to private property for a hunt, it could work.
“I’m not sure there’s an easy answer,” Erickson said. “I know there isn’t. If there was we’d be doing it.”