How aggressive can deer be? If anything, the animals have a reputation for being flighty rather than confrontational. That does not seem to be true for the town of Ashland, Oregon, where residents say they are constantly harassed by “aggressive” deer.
The town recently held a community “Deer Summit” this week after years of complaints from residents and several high-profile cases in which members of local families were chased by does. One elderly woman was even trampled in her driveway last fall. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the meeting was so packed, the town’s courthouse only had standing room.
“They wait three feet outside of my car door. And the horn doesn’t drive them away. The car doesn’t drive them away. I have sat in my car 20 minutes, feeling intimidated and not wanting to get out of the car,” said resident Leslie Gore.
Ashland is about an average-sized town for the region—6.5 square miles and 20,000 residents—and its deer population is just around 300. Many smaller towns on the East Coast have far more deer for less space, but those towns do not appear to be experiencing the same behavior that Ashland residents do. According to Mark Vargas, a wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, that might be because the deer in Ashland have become too comfortable with humans.
“Over the decades, people have not put the fear into the deer,” Vargas told The Oregonian. “When deer don’t fear people, they come closer and don’t look at them as a threat.”
The deer have been in the town for generations and although residents believe the population has spiked in recent years, there seems to be no evidence to support that.
Many residents describe the local deer as just plain mean. Numerous residents recounted their experiences at the Wednesday summit, with stories ranging from stalking deer to actual attacks. These encounters were most frequent with dog walkers, which does viewed as a threat to their fawns or were chased by bucks during the rut.
“It’s clearly not acceptable to have people be at risk of being injured or to have animals wounded and dying,” Mayor John Stromberg said.
The town is considering options to decrease the deer population, but Vargas said that methods like utilizing trained marksmen or sterilizing the deer are unlikely to be approved. A small but vocal minority in Ashland is advocating for lethal measures that would reduce the herd by just about 50 animals every year.
Stromberg and other residents are not convinced that lethal measures are needed.
“Are you serious?” Stromberg said, explaining that the town is not comfortable with such methods. “Have you ever been to Ashland?”
The city currently allows residents to build eight-foot-high fences to prevent deer from entering their property, and penalizes anyone who feeds deer with heavy fines. While city leaders consider a plan with more dramatic results, Vargas advised that residents to make the deer scared of them for a change.
“The recent and well-publicized attack on an Ashland homeowner by a deer protecting its fawn serves as a reminder that we share our community with all manner of wildlife,” the city stated on its public website. “No matter how cute and seemingly domesticated, these are wild creatures. Their behaviors are unpredictable.”